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Full text of "Sir Walter Scott"

Class _J?1?532l^_ 

Book 'Li - ^ 

Copyright N° (impy ? 



7 



COPYRIGHT DEPOSIT 



/ 



LITERARY LIVES 

EDITED BY 

W. ROBERTSON NICOLL 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 



LITERARY LIVES 

Edited by W. Robertson Nicoll, LL.D. 

MATTHEW ARNOLD. By G. W. E. Russell. 
CARDINAL NEWMAN. By William Barry, D.D. 
JOHN BUNYAN. By W. Hale White. 
COVENTRY PATMORE. By Edmund Gosse. 
ERNEST RENAN. By William Barry, D.D. 
CHARLOTTE BRONTE. By Clement K. Shorter. 
SIR WALTER SCOTT. By Andrew Lang. 

IN PREPARATION 

R. H. BUTTON. By W. Robertson Nicoll. 
GOETHE. By Edward Dowden. 
HAZLITT. By Louise Imogen Guiney. 

Each Volume, Illustrated, $i .00 net. Postage 10 cts. 




Sir Walter Scott. 

From the painting by John Graham Gilbert. 



Xtterars Stives 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 



BY 

ANDREW LANG 



ILLUSTRATED 



NEW YORK 

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 

1906 






LIBRARY of CONGRESS 
Two Copies Received 
APR 9 1906 
opyrignt Entry 

CLASS jtf 1 &C No, 






Copyright, 1906, by 
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 

Published, March, 1906 



TROW DIRECTORY 

PRINTING AND BOOKBINDING COMPANY 

NEW YORK 



TO 
THE HON. MRS. MAXWELL-SCOTT 



PREFACE 

If all reading mankind had time to read Lock- 
hart's Life of Scott, a brief volume on Sir Walter 
would be a thing without excuse. I am informed, 
however, by the Editor of this Series that the ap- 
preciation of Time, in our age, does not permit 
Lockhart to be universally read. I have therefore 
tried to compress as much as I may of the essence 
of Lockhart's great book into small space, with a 
few additions from other sources. In such efforts 
one compiler will present matter for which another 
cannot find room. The volume differs from its 
excellent predecessors by the late Mr. Hutton, and 
by Mr. Saintsbury, in being the work of one who 
comes from Sir Walter's own countryside, and has 
worked over much of his historical ground, and 
over most of the MS. materials which were handled 
by Lockhart. 

The late regretted Mr. David Carnegie, after 
twice crossing the Australian desert, summed up his 
results in the saying that no explorer need go thither 



viii PREFACE 

again. The Abbotsford MSS. are not a desert, but 
Lockhart has omitted nothing in them which is of 
value, nothing which bore essentially on his theme. 
No explorer need go thither again, save to confirm 
his appreciation of the merits of Lockhart's work. 
All other books on Scott are but its satellites, and 
their glow, be it brighter or fainter, is a borrowed 
radiance. 

St. Andrews, December 25, 1905. 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER I 

PAGE 

Ancestry — Childhood — Youth — First Love 

— Marriage i 



CHAPTER II 

Early Married Life — Ballad Collecting — 
"Lay of the Last Minstrel" — "Mar- 
mion" 27 

CHAPTER III 

" Quarterly Review " — " Lady of the Lake " 

— "Rokeby" — Ballantyne Affairs . . 59 

CHAPTER IV 
The " Waverley " Novels 83 

ix 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER V 

PAGE 

"Guy Mannering" to " Kenilworth " . .no 



CHAPTER VI 
Novels — Financial Ruin — Death . . . .157 

Conclusion . . . . <, 205 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Sir Walter Scott, from the Painting by John 

Graham Gilbert Frontispiece 

FACING 
PAGE 

Sir Walter Scott, after the Painting by Sir Henry 

Raeburn 26 

Sir Walter Scott, from the Painting by Sir David 

Wilkie, R.A 54 

Sir Walter Scott, from the Painting by Sir John 

Watson Gordon, R.A 54 

Sir Walter Scott and his Friends, from the Paint- 
ing by Thomas Faed, R.A 80 

The Chantrey Bust of Sir Walter Scott, 1820 . 108 

"The Abbotsford Family," after the Painting by 

Sir David Wilkie, R.A 134 

Abbotsford . . 158 

xi 



xii LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



FACING 
PAGE 



Sir Walter Scott, after the Painting by Sir Thomas 

Lawrence 186 

Sir Walter Scott, from the Painting by Sir Edwin 

Landseer, R.A 198 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 



CHAPTER I 

ANCESTRY, CHILDHOOD, YOUTH, FIRST 
LOVE, MARRIAGE 

The visitor to Abbots ford, looking up at the 
ceiling of the hall, beholds, in the painted shields, 
the heraldic record of the " heredity " of Sir Wal- 
ter Scott. In his time the doctrine of heredity had 
not won its way into the realm of popular science, 
but no man was more interested in pedigree than 
the Laird. His ancestors were part of himself, 
though he was not descended from a " Duke of 
Buccleuch of the fourteenth century," as the Dic- 
tionary of National Biography declares, with Eng- 
lish innocence. Three of the shields are occupied 
by white cloudlets on a blue ground; the arms 
of certain of the Rutherford ancestors, cadets of 
Hunthill, could not be traced. For the rest, if we 
are among those who believe that genius comes 
from the Celtic race alone, we learn with glee that 
the poet was not without his share of Celtic blood. 
He descended, on the female side, from the Mac- 
dougals of Makerston, and the Macdougals are 



2 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

perhaps the oldest family in Scotland, are certainly 
among the four or five oldest families. But they 
stood for the English cause against Bruce, a 
sorrow, no doubt, to their famous descendant. 
The wife, again, of Scott's great grandfather, 
" Beardie " the Jacobite, was a Miss Campbell of 
Silvercraigs, counting cousins with the Campbells, 
(who are at least as much Douglases as Camp- 
bells) of Blythswood. Finally, the name of Scott, 
I presume, was originally borne by some infinitely 
remote forefather, who was called " The Scot " 
because he was Irish by birth though his family 
was settled, first in Lanarkshire, later among the 
Cymri and English of Ettrickdale and Teviotdale. 
So much for the Celtic side of Sir Walter. 

On the other hand, the Rutherfords — his 
mother was a Rutherford — are probably sprung 
from the Anglo-Norman noblesse who came into 
Scotland with David I, and obtained the lands 
whence they derive their name. They are an older 
family, on the Border, than the Scotts, who are 
not on record in Rankilburn before 1296. One 
of them (from whose loins also comes the pres- 
ent genealogist) frequently signs (or at all events 
seals) the charters of David I about 1140. The 
Swintons, famous in our early wars, and the Hali- 
burtons, cadets of Dirleton, have a similar origin, 
so that in Scott met the blood of Highlands and 



ANCESTRY 3 

Lowlands, Celtic, Teutonic, and Norman. " There 
are few in Scotland," says Lockhart, " under the 
titled nobility, who could trace their blood to so 
many stocks of historical distinction." All Scot- 
tish men have a share in Sir Walter. The people 
of Scotland, " gentle " or " simple," have ever set 
store on such ancestral connexions, and they cer- 
tainly were a source of great pleasure to Scott. 

His mind was, in the first place, historical; 
rooted in and turning towards the past, as the only 
explanation of the present. Before he could read 
with ease, say at the age of four or five, he pored 
over Scott of Satchells' rhyming True History of 
several Honourable Families of the Right Hon- 
ourable Name of Scot. " I mind spelling these 
lines," he said, when Constable gave him a copy of 
the book, in 1818. Indeed, he was always " spell- 
ing " the legends and history of his race, while he 
was making it famous by his pen, since accident 
forbade him to make it glorious by his sword. One 
legend of the Scotts of Harden, the most celebrated 
of all, is, I think, a Mdrchen, or popular tale, the 
story of Muckle Mou'd Meg and her forced mar- 
riage with young Harden. Suppose the unlikely 
case that William Scott, younger, of Harden, did 
undertake a long expedition to seize the cattle of 
Murray of Elibank, on the upper Tweed. I deem 
this most improbable, in the reign of James VI, 



4 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

when he was seated on the English throne. But 
suppose it occurred, who can believe that Elibank 
would dare to threaten young Harden with hang- 
ing on the Elibank doom tree? Even if Scots law 
would have borne him out, Elibank dared not face 
the feud of the strongest name on the Border. 
Thus it is not to be credited that young Harden 
chose " Muckle Mou'd Meg," Elibank's daughter, 
as an alternative to the gallows. Moreover, the 
legend, I am informed, recurs in a province of Ger- 
many. If so, the tale may be much older than the 
Harden-Elibank marriage. The contract of that 
marriage is extant, and is not executed " on the 
parchment of a drum," as Lockhart romantically 
avers. Scott, better than most men, must have 
known how more than doubtsome is the old legend. 

He let no family tradition drop : rather, he gave 
a sword and a cocked hat, in his own phrase, to 
each story. The ballad of Kinmont Willie, the 
tale of the most daring and bloodless of romantic 
exploits, certainly owes much to him, and he 
"brought out with a wet finger" (in Randolph's 
phrase) all the dim exploits and fading legends of 
Tweed, Ettrick, Ail, Yarrow, and Teviot ; streams, 
Dr. John Brown says, " fabulosi as ever was 
Hydaspes." 

The son of a Writer to the Signet, Scott was 
grandson of a speculative Border yeoman, who 



ANCESTRY 5 

laid out the entire sum necessary for stocking his 
farm on one mare, and sold her at a double advan- 
tage. Possibly Scott may have inherited the san- 
guine disposition of this adventurer. He was born 
to make all the world familiar with the life and his- 
tory of an ancient kingdom, that, as a kingdom, 
had ceased to be, and with adventures rapidly win- 
ning their way to oblivion. 

Just when Scotland, seventy years after she was 
" no longer Scotland " (according to Lockhart of 
Carnwath), merged into England, Nature sent 
Burns to make Scottish peasant life immortal, and 
Scott to give immortality to chivalrous Scottish 
romance. There are traces of love of history and 
traces of intellectual ability in Scott's nearest kin. 
His lawyer father, born in 1729, was naturally 
more devoted to " analysing abstruse feudal doc- 
trines," and to studying " Knox's and Spottis- 
woode's folios " of the history of Kirk and State, 
than to the ordinary business of his calling. Scott's 
maternal uncle, Dr. Rutherford, " was one of the 
best chemists in Europe " — we have Sir Walter's 
word for it. Scott's mother was not only fond of 
the best literature, but had a memory for points of 
history and genealogy almost as good as his own. 
" She connected a long period of time with the 
present generation." Scott wrote when she died 
(1819), " for she remembered, and had often 



6 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

spoken with a person who perfectly recollected the 
battle of Dunbar. . . ." She knew all about the 
etiquette of the covenanting conventicles under 
the Restoration, when the lairds' wives, little to 
the comfort of their lords, sat on their saddles 
on the ground, listening to preachers like Walsh 
or Cameron. 

Fortunate indeed was Scott in his mother, who 
did not spoil him, though he must have been her 
favourite child. His eldest brother who attained 
maturity not only fought under the glorious Rod- 
ney, but " had a strong talent for literature," and 
composed admirable verses. His brother Thomas 
was credited by Sir Walter with considerable gen- 
ius, and was put forward by popular rumour as 
the author of the Waverley novels. His only sur- 
viving sister, Anne (died 1 801 ) , " lived in an ideal 
world, which she had framed to herself by the 
force of imagination." Scott himself was well 
aware of his own tendency " to live in fantasy," in 
the kingdom of dreams, and in the end he discov- 
ered that in the kingdom of dreams he had actually 
been living, as regards his own affairs, despite his 
strong practical sense, and " the thread of the at- 
torney " in his nature. His genius, in short, was 
the flower and consummation of qualities existing 
in his family; while it was associated, though we 
may presume not casually, with such maladies as 



CHILDHOOD 7 

are current amongst families in general. There 
would be genius abundantly, if genius were merely 
a " sport " of disease. 

At Abbots ford, in Sir Walter's desk, are six 
bright locks of the hair of six brothers and sisters 
of his, who were born and died between 1759 and 
1766, an Anne, a Jean, and a Walter, two Roberts, 
and a John. These early deaths were suspected to 
be due to the air of the old house in College Wynd, 
built on the site of Kirk o' Field, where Darnley 
was murdered, perhaps on the site of the church- 
yard. But it was not till after the birth of the 
second Walter (August 15, 1771) that his father 
flitted to the pleasant wide George's Square, beside 
the Meadows, and thereafter no children of the 
house died in childhood. 

His own life-long malady was perhaps of an 
osseous nature. An American specialist has ad- 
vanced the theory that " the peak ", the singularly 
tall and narrow head of Scott (" better be Peveril 
of the Peak than Peter of the Paunch," he said to 
" Lord Peter"), was due to the early closure of 
the sutures of the skull. The brain had to force 
a way upwards, not laterally ! However that may 
be, at the age of eighteen months, after gambolling 
one night like a fey child, little Walter was seized 
with a teething fever, and, on the fourth day, was 
found to have lost the use of his right leg. The 



8 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

malady, never cured entirely, but always the cause 
of lameness, probably deprived Wellington of a 
gallant officer, for Scott was by nature a man of 
action. But Wellington had lieutenants enough, 
and the accident made possible the career of a poet. 
" The making of him " began at once, for the 
child was removed to the grandpaternal farm of 
Sandy Knowe, beneath the crags whence the Keep 
of Smailholme (in The Eve of St. John) looks 
over " Tweed's fair flood, and all down Teviot- 
dale," over the wide plain and blue hills that had 
seen so many battles and border frays. Here he 
was " first conscious of existence " — or first remem- 
bered his consciousness — swathed in the skin of a 
newly slain sheep, and crawling along the floor 
after a watch dangled by his kinsman, Sir George 
Macdougal of Makerstoun. 

And ever, by the winter hearth, 

Old tales I heard of woe or mirth, 

Of lovers' slights, of ladies' charms, 

Of witches' spells, of warriors' arms, — 

Of patriot battles won of old 

By Wallace Wight and Bruce the Bold, — 

Of later fields of feud and fight, 

When, pouring from their Highland height, 

The Scottish clans, in headlong sway, 

Had swept the scarlet ranks away. 

Sandyknowe was indeed " fit nurse for a poetic 



CHILDHOOD 9 

child," " a sweet tempered bairn, a darling with all 
about the house." A miniature of three years later 
shows us the tall forehead, the frank and eager air, 
the force and charm of the child, certainly " a 
comely creature," who, left alone among the hills, 
" clapped his hands at the lightning, and cried 
1 bonny, bonny ' at every flash." He was " as 
eager to hear of the defeat of Washington, as if 
I had had some deep and personal cause of antipa- 
thy to him " ; while he was already under the charm 
of the King over the Water, Charles, lingering out 
his life at Florence, not answering the petition that 
he would raise the standard among the faithful in 
America. " I remember detesting the name of 
Cumberland with more than infant hatred," for he 
had heard, from an eye-witness, the story of the 
execution of the Highland prisoners at Carlisle 
(1746). He learned by heart his first ballad, a 
modern figment, Hardiknute; he shouted it through 
the house, and disturbed an old divine who had 
seen Pope, and the wits of Queen Anne's time. It 
was not easy to keep young Walter " at the bit," 
but his aunt soon taught him " to read brawly." 
He himself says that he " acquired the rudiments 
of reading " at Bath, whither he was carried be- 
tween the ages of four and six. 

Just afterwards, at Prestonpans, he made the 
acquaintance of a veteran bearing the deathless 



io SIR WALTER SCOTT 

name of Dalgetty, and of a Mr. Constable, in 
part the original of Monkbarns, in The Antiquary, 
" the first person who told me about Falstaff and 
Hotspur." Returned to Edinburgh, he read 
Homer (in Pope's version), and the Border Bal- 
lads, with his mother, who had " a strong turn to 
study poetry and works of devotion " — no poetry 
on Sundays, a day " which in the end did none of 
us any good." 

We see " the making of him." Before he was 
six Sir Walter was " made "; he was a bold rider, 
a lover of nature and of the past, he was a Jacobite, 
and the friend of epic and ballad. In short, as 
Mrs. Cockburn (a Rutherford of the beautiful old 
house of Fairnalie-on-Tweed) remarked before he 
was six, " he has the most extraordinary genius of 
a boy I ever saw. . . . He reads like a Garrick." 
No doubt his mother saw and kept these things in 
her heart, but we do not hear that others of the 
family recognized a genius in a boy who was a 
bookworm at home, and idle at school. 

He once, at this period, said a priggish thing, 
which Lockhart knew, but has omitted. Some one, 
finding him at his book asked (as people do), 
" Walter, why don't you play with the other boys 
in the Square ? " 

" Oh, you can't think how ignorant these boys 
are!" 



YOUTH 1 1 

One deeply sympathizes, but later he found no- 
body from whom he could not learn something, 
were it but about " bend leather." 

Such were, in the old French phrase of chivalry, 
Les Enfances Gualtier. Now the technical Age of 
Innocence was past, and, in October 1778, hav- 
ing seen seven summers, he went to the old Edin- 
burgh High School, to Mr. Frazer's class. The 
age of entry was not, perhaps, unnaturally 
early. 1 

" Duxships," and gold medals, and the making 
of Greek Iambics were not for Walter Scott. He 
was, he tells us, younger than the other boys in the 
second class, and had made less progress than they 
in Latin. " This was a real disadvantage," as 
there was leeway to make up. He sat near the bot- 
tom of the huge string of boys, perhaps eighty, 
and, as he truly says, the boys used to fall into sets, 
" clubs and coteries," according to the benches 
which they occupied. There they used to sit, and 
play at ingenious games — e.g. (in my time) a 
match between the Caesars and the Apostles — con- 
ducted on the principle of a raffle ; or a regatta of 
paper boats blown across the floor. The tawse (a 
leather strap) descended on their palms, but learn- 

1 My kinsman, the late Professor Sellar, went to the Edin- 
burgh Academy at seven, and was Dux, as the head boy used 
to be called, at fourteen. 



12 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

ing never came near them, and they moved up from 
class to class by seniority, not by merit. 

Scott was not always on the lowest benches, but 
flew to the top by answering questions in " general 
information " (which nobody has), and fell, by 
a rapid degringolade, when topics were afoot 
about which every industrious boy knew every- 
thing. He was the meteor of the form, the trans- 
lator of Horace or Virgil into rhyme, " the histo- 
rian of the class " (as Dr. Adam, the headmaster 
said), and he was " a bonny fechter." Owing to 
his lameness, he and his opponent used to fight sit- 
ting on opposite benches — his victories were won, 
as he said, in banco. He dared " the three kittle 
steps " on the narrow ledge of rock outside the 
wall of Edinburgh Castle; helped to man the Cow- 
gate in snowball riots, and took part in the " stone 
bickers " against the street boys, which he describes 
in the anecdote of Green Breeks. His private tutor 
had " a very strong turn to anaticism," and in ar- 
gument with him Scott adopted the side of Claver- 
house and the Crown against Argyll and the Cove- 
nanters. " I took up my politics at that period as 
King Charles II did his religion " (King Charles is 
here much misunderstood) , " from an idea that the 
Cavalier creed was the more gentlemanlike of the 



two." 



In these controversies were the germs of Old 



YOUTH 



13 



Mortality. " The beastly Covenanters," wrote 
Scott to Southey in 1807, "hardly had any claim 
to be called men, unless what was founded on their 
walking upon their hind feet. You can hardly con- 
ceive the perfidy, cruelty, and stupidity of these 
people, according to the accounts they have them- 
selves preserved." But, when he came to write his- 
tory, Scott adopted another view, and, out of sheer 
love of fairness, was unfair to the Cavaliers. By 
" a nice derangement of " dates, he introduced the 
worst cruelties of the Cavaliers before they oc- 
curred, and did not mention at all the cause of the 
severities — the Cameronian declaration of war by 
murder. 

His old tutor could have done no better for " the 
good old cause," but modern popular historians do 
as much. Under the Headmaster, Dr. Adam, 
" learned, useful, simple," Scott rose to the highest 
form, though, like St. Augustine, and for no better 
reason, he refused to learn Greek. He certainly 
" never was a first-rate Latinist " — his quotations 
from Roman poets prove that fact, no less than a 
false quantity in his only brace of Latin elegiacs, 
for the tomb of his deerhound, Maida. 1 

Scott regretted his ignorance of Greek, " a loss 

1 Edward Fitzgerald (Omar Khayyam) says that Lockhart 
introduced a false quantity. In fact, James Ballantyne was 
guilty, cf. p. 204. infra. 



14 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

never to be repaired, considering what that lan- 
guage is, and who they were who employed it in 
their compositions." The most Homeric of later 
poets knew nothing of Homer, which was to him- 
self, certainly, an irreparable loss, for Pope and 
Cowper could not impart to him a shadow of what 
Homer would have been to him in the Greek. But 
great as is the delight which he missed, it is not 
probable that a knowledge of Greek literature 
would have moved Scott to imitate its order, its 
beauty, and its deep and poignant vein of reflection 
on human destiny. 

People blame Scott because he has not the depth 
of Shakespeare or of Wordsworth, because Homer, 
a poet of war, of the sea, of the open air, is far 
more prone than Scott was to melancholy reflec- 
tion on the mystery of human fortunes. But 
Scott was silent, not because he did not reflect, but 
because he knew the futility of human reflection. 
Humana perpessi sumus is a phrase which escapes 
him in his age, when he looks back on a lost and 
un forgotten love, on a broken life, on what might 
have been, and what had been. " We are men, and 
have endured what men are born to bear " — that 
is his brief philosophy. Why add words about it 
all? The silence of Scott better proves the depth 
of his thought, and the splendour of his courage, 
than the finest " reflections " that poets have ut- 



YOUTH 



*5 



tered in immortal words. It is not because his 
thought is shallow that he never shows us the things 
which lie in the deep places of his mind. " Men 
and houses have stood long enough, if they stand 
till they fall with honour," says his Baron Brad- 
wardine. " Ilios must perish, the city of Priam of 
the ashen spear," says Homer — and what more is 
there to say, for a man who does not wear his heart 
on his sleeve ? Knowledge of Greek poetry would 
not have induced Scott to write a line in the sense 
of the melancholy of Greek epic poetry; a noble 
melancholy, but he will utter none of its in- 
spirations. On the side of precision, exquisite 
proportion, rich delicacy of language, " loading 
every reef with gold," as Keats advised Shelley 
to do, Scott would have learned nothing from 
Greece. 

His genius was of another bent — 

Flow forth, flow unconstrained, my Tale! 

he says, knowing himself to be an improviser, not 
a minutely studious artist. He knew his own path, 
and he followed it, holding his own art at a lowly 
price. No critic is more severe on him for his laxi- 
ties, for his very " unpremeditated art " than he is 
himself. But, such as that art may be, it was what 
he was born to accomplish, and, had he read as 



1 6 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

much Greek as Tennyson, he would still have writ- 
ten as he rode 

Without stop or stay down the rocky way, 

and through the wan water of the river in spate. 
He was obedient to his nature, and all the Greek 
Muses singing out of Olympus could not have al- 
tered his nature, or changed the riding lilt of Dick 
o y the Cow for more classical measures and a more 
chastened style. 

For these reasons, as he was not, like Keats, a 
Greek born out of due time, but a minstrel of the 
Mosstroopers, we need not regret that he was igno- 
rant of the greatest of all literatures. Of Latin, 
he had enough to serve his ends. He seldom cites 
Virgil: he appears to have preferred Lucan. He 
could read, at sight, such Latin as he wanted to 
read, which was mainly medieval. His knowledge 
of Italian, German, Spanish, and French was of 
the same handy homemade character. He picked 
up the tongues in the course of reading books in the 
tongues, books of chivalry and romance. His 
French, when he spoke in that language was, as one 
of the Court of the exiled Charles X in Holyrood 
said, " the French of the good Sire de Joinville." 

From childhood, and all through his schoolboy 
days, and afterwards, he was a narrator. A lady 
who knew him in early boyhood says that he had a 



YOUTH 17 

myth for every occasion. " Even when he wanted 
ink to his pen he would get up some ludicrous story 
about sending his doggie to the mill again." We 
are reminded of the two Stevensons, telling each 
other stories about the continents and isles in the 
milk and porridge which they were eating. " He 
used also to interest us . . ." says a lady, " by 
telling us the visions, as he called them, which he 
had when lying alone . . . when kept from going 
to church on a Sunday by ill-health . . . misty 
and sublime sketches of the regions above which he 
had visited in his trance." The lady thought that 
he had a tendency to " superstition," but he was 
only giving examples of the uprisings from the 
" subliminal " regions which are open to genius. 
It was with invented stories that he amused his 
friends, Irving and James Ballantyne, whom he 
met at a school of which he was a casual pupil at 
Kelso. He once kept a fellow-traveller awake all 
night, by his narrative of the foul murder of Arch- 
bishop Sharp, told as they drove across Magus 
Moor, the scene of that " godly fact." 

The men and women whom he met in boyhood, 
oddities, " characters," people his novels. Chance 
scraps of humour remained in the most retentive 
of memories, reappeared in his romances, and made 
it impossible for his old friends to doubt his au- 
thorship. His long country walks were directed to 



1 8 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

places of historical interest, in which he found that 
scarce any one else was interested, before he peo- 
pled them with the figures of his dreams. 

In his thirteenth year Scott matriculated at the 
town's college of Edinburgh. At this time he was 
once in the same room with Burns, whom he en- 
lightened as to the authorship of lines by Lang- 
horne, written under a weak engraving of Bun- 
bury's, a soldier dead in the snow beside his wife 
and dog. It is curious that the author's name, in 
fact, is printed under the verses. Scott remarked 
of Burns' eyes, that " he never saw their like in a 
human head." " His countenance was more mas- 
sive than it looks in any of the portraits." The 
late Dr. Boyd of St. Andrews (A.K.H.B.) once 
asked a sister of Burns which of the portraits of her 
brother was the best likeness? " They a' mak' 
him ower like a gentleman," she replied, and no 
doubt she meant that they missed the massiveness 
of his countenance. Scott thought Burns too hum- 
ble in his attitude towards young Ferguson, in 
whom he recognized his master; not wholly an 
error, and a generous error at worst. Scott also 
thought himself " unworthy to tie Burns' shoes," 
so noble was the generosity of either poet. 

His fifteenth year saw Scott, already a lawyer's 
apprentice, in the Highlands, happy in the society 
of Stewart of Invernahyle, who had fought a sword 



YOUTH 19 

and target duel with Rob Roy (at Ardsheil, I 
think) , had been out with the Prince, and supplied 
the central incidents of Waverley. " The blawing 
bleezing lairds " were not much to the taste of the 
elder Mr. Scott, who was unconsciously sitting for 
his own portrait as the elder Fairford in Red- 
gauntlet, a picture rich in affectionate humour. 
" The office," in Edinburgh, swallows up a large 
proportion of the schoolboys. To Mr. R. L. Ste- 
venson, " the office " seemed a Minotaur, but Scott 
found in it his profit. He acquired, as a copyist, 
the quality of steady prolonged writing ; the faculty 
of sitting at it which Anthony Trollope called 
" rump." He once covered, without interruption, 
a hundred and twenty pages of folio, at three-pence 
the page, gaining thirty shillings to spend on books 
or a dirk. Looking at the MSS. of his novels, 
down to the never - to - be - published Knights of 
Malta, written during his last voyage to Italy, we 
see the steady, unfaltering, speedy hand of the law 
writer, with scarce a correction or an erasure. 
After his ruin, after his breakdown in health, he 
once wrote the " copy "of sixty printed pages of 
a novel in a day. He had acquired the power of 
sitting at it, without which his colossal labours, in 
the leisure hours of a busy official life, would have 
been impossible. He could not have done this had 
he not been of Herculean strength, the strongest 



20 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

man in the acquaintance of the Ettrick Shepherd. 
" Though you may think him a poor lamiter, he's 
the first to begin a row, and the last to end it," said 
a naval officer. Like his own Corporal Raddle- 
banes, he once fought three men with his stick, for 
an hour by the Tron clock — not that of Shrews- 
bury. 

We are apt to forget how young Scott was, at 
this period. He was only eighteen when he piloted 
a young English friend through the shoals and 
reefs of early misadventure. He can scarcely have 
been nineteen when he met he Manteau Vert, Miss 
Stewart Belches (daughter of Sir John Stewart 
Belches of Invermay), the object of his first and 
undying love. His friends thought him cold tow- 
ards the fair, but, in truth, he was shielded by a 
pure affection. Concerning the lady, I have heard 
much, from Mrs. Wilson {nee Macleod), whose 
aged aunt, or great-aunt, like Scott, fell in love 
with the bride of William Forbes. " She was more 
like an angel than a woman," the old lady would 
say. Scott's passion endured for five years ( " three 
years of dreaming and two of wakening," he says) , 
inspiring him, as time went on, to severe applica- 
tion in his legal studies, and to his first efforts in 
literature. 

Lockhart did not know the details of the ending 
of the vision. " What a romance to tell — and told 






FIRST LOVE 0.1 

I fear it will one day be," wrote Scott after his 
ruin. But told the romance never will or can be, 
except in the merest outline. Scott thought that he 
had something to complain of, as appears from his 
poem, The Violet, about " my false love," and in 
verses describing Fitz James' broken sleep, in The 
Lady of the Lake. 

Then, . . . from my couch may heavenly might 
Chase that worst phantom of the night — 
Again return the scenes of youth, 
Of confident undoubting truth 

* * * * 

They come, in dim procession led, 
The cold, the faithless, and the dead. 

# * * * 
Dreamed he of death, or broken vow, 
Or is it all a vision now? 

Scott, according to Lady Louisa Stuart, said 
that he always, in later life, dreamed of his lost love 
before any great misfortune. In age and sickness, 
his Journal tells much of his thoughts of her, of the 
name he had cut in runic characters on the grass 
below the tower of St. Rule's at St. Andrews, the 
name that " still had power to stir his heart." But 
years went by before the vision ended — the vision 
of the lady of Rokeby, of Redgauntlet, and of the 
Lay of the Last Minstrel; " by many names one 
form." 



ii SIR WALTER SCOTT 

It is because he knew passion too well that he is 
not a poet of passion. There is nothing in Scott 
like the melancholy or peevish repining of the lov- 
ers in Locksley Hall and in Maud. Only in the 
fugitive farewell caress of Diana Vernon, stooping 
from her saddle on the darkling moor before she 
rides into the night, do we feel the heart-throb of 
Walter Scott. Of love as of human life he knew 
too much to speak. He did not " make copy " of 
his deepest thoughts or of his deepest affections. 
I am not saying " They were pedants who could 
speak," or blaming those who can " unlock their 
hearts " with a sonnet or any other poetic key. But 
simply it was not Sir Walter's way; and we must 
take him with his limitations — honourable to the 
man, if unfortunate for the poet. 

We see him, a splendid figure, " tall, much 
above the usual stature, cast in the very mould 
of a youthful Hercules; the head set on with sin- 
gular grace, the throat and chest after the truest 
model of the antique, the hands delicately finished, 
the whole outline that of extraordinary vigour, 
without as yet a touch of clumsiness." The " lami- 
ter " " could persuade a pretty young woman to sit 
and talk with me, hour after hour, in a corner of a 
ballroom, while all the world were capering in our 
view." 

This was the lad who shone in The Speculative 



FIRST LOVE 



2 3 



Society; who roamed with Shortreed from Char- 
lieshope to Charlieshope, dear to all the Dandie 
Dinmonts of Liddesdale, " sober or drunk, he was 
aye the gentleman." You could not wander in 
Liddesdale, in these days, without the risk of being 
" fou " : though even among these " champion 
bowlsmen " Scott had the strongest head. " How 
brawlie he suited himself to every body," as to 
" auld Thomas of Twizzlehope," who possessed 
" the real lilt of Dick o' the Cow" and a punch 
bowl fatal to sobriety. The real lilt, or " a genuine 
old Border war horn " was worth a headache. 
Mr. Hutton, in his book on Scott, made his moan 
over the story of the arrival of a keg of brandy 
that interrupted religious exercise in Liddesdale. 
Autres temps, autre s moeurs, and Scott, during 
these ballad-hunting expeditions, was not yet 
twenty-one. In defending the Rev. Mr. Mac- 
naught, before the General Assembly, on a charge 
of lack of sobriety, and of " toying with a sweetie 
wife " and singing sculdudery chants, Scott edified 
the General Assembly by the distinction between 
ebrius and ebriosus, between being drunk and being 
a drunkard. But the Assembly decided that Mr. 
Macnaught was ebriosus. In getting up this case 
Scott visited, for the only time, the country of the 
Picts of Galloway, and of Guy Mannering. 

The period of the Reign of Terror, in France, 



a 4 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

found Scott taking part in anti-revolutionary 
" rows " in Edinburgh. Nothing hints that he, 
like Wordsworth, conceived a passionate affection 
for the Revolution. The Radicals had a plot of 
the good old Jacobite kind for seizing the Castle 
(1794), but Scott rejected such romance, and was 
a volunteer on the side of order. In 1795 he con- 
ceived that his love suit was prospering, as appears 
plainly in a letter; despite "his habitual effort to 
suppress, as far as words were concerned, the more 
tender feelings, which in no heart were deeper 
than in his." He translated Burger's ballad of 
Lenore (a refashioning of a volkslied current in 
modern Greece, and as The Suffolk Tragedy, m 
England) , and laid " a richly bound and blazoned 
copy " at his lady's feet ( 1796) . The rhymes are 
spirited — 

Tramp, tramp! along the land they rode, 

Splash, splash, along the sea, 
The scourge is red, the spur drops blood, 

The flashing pebbles flee I 

But the lady " gave to gold, what song could 
never buy," as her unfriends may have said. But 
as her chosen lover was William Forbes, of the 
house of the good old Lord Pitsligo of the Forty- 
Five, and as Mr. (later Sir William) Forbes re- 
mained the staunchest friend of Scott, we may be 



FIRST LOVE 25 

certain that Green Mantle merely obeyed her 
heart. 

" I shudder," wrote a friend, " at the violence 
of his most irritable and ungovernable mind." He 
little knew Scott, who rode from his lady's house 
into the hills, " eating his own heart, avoiding the 
paths of men," and said nothing. The fatal Oc- 
tober of his rejection (1796) saw the publication 
of his first book, a slim quarto, containing transla- 
tions of Burger's ballads. The lady of Harden, a 
Saxon by birth, corrected " his Scotticisms, and 
more especially his Scottish rhymes" He had be- 
come the minstrel of " the Rough Clan "of Scott, 
and was a friend of the Houses of Harden (his 
chief's) and of Buccleuch. 

Scotland lost Burns in 1796, but did not yet take 
up Scott, whose ballads literally served " to line a 
box," as Tennyson says, and were delivered over to 
the trunk-makers. He made no moan, and, in 
April 1797, his heart, as he says, " was handsome- 
ly pieced." At Gilsland he met the dark-eyed 
Miss Charpentier, of French origin, daughter of 
M. Jean Charpentier (Ecuyer du Rot) , and fell in 
love. I think that, in Julia Mannering, the lively 
dark beauty of Guy Mannering, we have a portrait 
from the life of Scott's bride. In personal appear- 
ance the two ladies are unmistakably identical, and 
Miss Charpentier, in a letter of November 27, 



26 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

1797, chaffs her lover exactly as Julia Mannering 
chaffs her austere father. Scott had written about 
his desire to be buried in Dryburgh Abbey, and 
Miss Charpentier thought him dismal and prema- 
ture. She did not care for romance, she did not 
pamper Scott by pretending to the faintest sympa- 
thy with his studies, but she was a merry bride, a 
true wife, and, when the splendour of celebrity 
shone on Scott, it did not burn up (as a friend 
feared that it might) the unmoved Semele who 
shared the glory. Scott was married at Carlisle, 
in the church of St. Mary, on Christmas Eve, 
1797. 

I have often wondered whether, after his mar- 
riage, Scott was in the habit of meeting his " false 
love " in the society of Edinburgh. His heart was 
" handsomely pieced," he says, but haeret lethalis 
arundo. 




Sir Walter Scott. 

After a painting by Sir Henry Raeburn. 



CHAPTER II 

EARLY MARRIED LIFE, BALLAD COL- 
LECTING, LAY OF THE LAST 
MINSTREL, MARMION 

The Scotts, at Edinburgh, dwelt first in George 
Street, then in South Castle Street, and finally in 
the house in North Castle Street, where he resided 
till the time of his misfortunes. The rooms were 
soon full of old pikes and guns and bows, of old 
armour, and of old books. Already Scott's library 
was considerable. He had read enormously, and 
it is curious that a man of his unrivalled memory 
made so many written notes of his reading. 
" Reading makes a full man," but Gillies, an intel- 
ligent if unpractical bore, says that, when in the full 
tide of authorship later, Scott read comparatively 
little. His summers were passed in a cottage at 
Lasswade, in the society of his early friends, and of 
the families of Melville, of the historian, Patrick 
Fraser Tytler, Woodhouselee, and of Buccleuch. 
His early friends were around him — William 
Erskine, a good man and fastidious critic, William 

27 



28 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Clerk, of Penicuik, Fergusson (Sir Adam), and 
many others. Gillies says that Scott lived " alone," 
and doubts " whether there was any one intimately 
connected with Sir Walter Scott whose mind and 
habits were exactly congenial.' , But it is a com- 
monplace that we all " live alone," and certainly 
Scott seems to have believed that he found, espe- 
cially in " Will Erskine," all the sympathy, literary 
and social, that he could expect or desire. In 1798 
he made a new acquaintance, Mat Lewis, famous 
then for his romance, The Monk, and busy with 
his Tales of Wonder. 

Lewis, though no poet, was a neat metrist, and 
tutored Scott in the practical details of prosody. 
To Lewis Scott offered versions of German ballads, 
and other materials from his increasing store of 
original or traditional Volkslieder. He entered 
the realm of poetry, not by the usual gate of " sub- 
jective " lyrics about his own emotions, but through 
the antiquarian and historical gate of old popular 
ballads, newly opened by Bishop Percy, Herd, 
Ritson the excitable antiquary, and others. Sir 
Philip Sidney had loved these songs of " blind 
crowders," Addison had praised them, Lady 
Wardlaw had imitated them, Burns had expressed 
but a poor opinion of them, but German research 
and imitation had given a new vogue to the bal- 
lads, which Scott, in boyhood, had collected when- 



EARLY MARRIED LIFE 29 

ever he possessed a shilling to buy a printed chant. 
The simplicity and spirit of the narrative folk 
songs did much to inspire and give vogue to Wolf's 
theory that the Homeric poems were, in origin, a 
kind of highly superior long ballads, handed down 
by oral tradition. In this theory Scott had no in- 
terest, about its truth he had no opinion, sitting 
silent and bored when it was debated by Coleridge 
and Morritt. " I never," he says, " was so be- 
thumped with words." The vogue of the ballads 
lent a new blow at the poetical theories of the 
eighteenth century, and at the poetry of Pope. But 
Scott would not have it said that Pope was no poet, 
a poet he was, but he dealt with themes that were 
no longer so much appreciated as they had been in 
the age of Anne. Though a literary innovator Sir 
Walter was not a literary iconoclast, and he loved 
no poetry better than the stately and manly melan- 
choly of Dr. Johnson's imitations of Juvenal. 

Mat Lewis's ballads were delayed in publica- 
tion, but in January 1799 he negotiated with a 
Mr. Bell for the issue of Scott's version of Goethe's 
Goetz Von Berlichingen, " a very poor and incor- 
rect translation ; " so a former owner of my copy of 
Lockhart has pencilled on the margin. Goetz, at 
all events, made no impression on Coleridge's de- 
tested " reading public," and though Scott carried 
to London, in 1799, an original drama, The 



3 o SIR WALTER SCOTT 

House of Aspen, which was put in rehearsal by 
Kemble, it never saw the footlights. In later life 
he expressed disgust at the idea of writing for 
" low and ignorant actors " (who may be supposed 
to know their own business) ; perhaps he had been 
mortified by the ways of managers. At this time 
his father died of paralysis; says Lockhart, " I 
have lived to see the curtain rise and fall once more 
on a similar scene." The Glenfinlas ballad was 
written at this time, founded on a legend of the 
murderous fairy women of the woods, which I 
have heard from the lips of a boatman on Loch 
Awe, and which Mr. Stevenson found, unmis- 
takably the same, among the natives of Samoa. A 
more important ballad, the first in which he really 
showed his hand, was The Eve of St. John, a 
legend of Smailholme tower. Here we find the 
true Border spirit, the superstitious thrill, the gal- 
loping metre, the essence of The Lay of the Last 
Minstrel. Cadyow, a ballad of the murder of 
the Regent Moray, is also of this period, and 
though not in the traditional manner, is most 
spirited. 

Scott's destiny was now clear enough, the coun- 
try had in him a new " maker." But he had no 
idea of a life of authorship, agreeing with Kerr of 
Abbotrule that " a Lord President Scott might well 
be a famous poet — in the vacation time." Litera- 



BEGINNING OF BALLANTYNE 31 

ture, he said, was a good staff, but a bad crutch, 
and he looked to advance his worldly prospects and 
secure his livelihood by the profession of the Bar. 
Our other poets, as a rule, have meditated the 
Muse in perfect leisure, with no professional dis- 
tractions. But Scott's literary work was all done 
in hours stolen from an active official life. " I can 
get on quite as well from recollection of nature, 
while sitting in the Parliament House, as if wan- 
dering through wood and wold," he said to Gillies, 
" though liable to be roused out of a descriptive 
dream, if Balmuto, with a fierce grunt, demands, 
i Where are your cautioners? ' " Shelley composed 
while watching "the bees in the ivy bloom;" 
Keats, while listening to the nightingale; Scott, in 
the Parliament House, under the glare of Lord 
Balmuto. The difference in method is manifest in 
the difference of the results. But Marmlon was 
composed during gallops among the hills of 
Tweedside. 

At this date, the winter of 1799, Scott met his 
school friend James Ballantyne, then publishing 
a newspaper at Kelso, and Ballantyne printed 
twelve copies of the new ballads. Scott liked the 
typography, thought of a small volume of the old 
Border ballads, to be executed by his friend, and 
the die was cast. The success of The Border Min- 
strelsy made him an author, association with the 



32 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

printer helped him on the long road to financial 
ruin. 

The same date, December 1799, saw Scott 
made Sheriff Depute of Selkirkshire, " the Shirra 
of the Forest." He at once invited Ballantyne to 
settle as a printer and publisher in Edinburgh, 
while in the Forest, when ballad hunting, he made 
the acquaintance of Leyden, scholar and poet, of 
William Laidlaw, his lifelong friend, and of James 
Hogg, then an Ettrick swain, " the most remark- 
able man who ever wore the maud of a shepherd." 
Hogg had none of the education of Burns. " Self 
taught am I," he might have said, like the minstrel 
of Odysseus, " but the Muse puts into my heart all 
manner of lays." Hogg was indeed the survivor 
of such Borderers as, writes Bishop Lesley ( 1576) , 
" make their own ballads of adventures for them- 
selves." He has left a graphic account of his first 
meeting with Scott. " Oh, lad, the Shirra's come," 
said Scott's groom. " Are ye the chap that makes 
the auld ballads? " Hogg replied, " I could not 
say that I had made ony very auld ballads," but 
did James tell the truth? He is under suspicion 
of having made the " very auld ballad " of Auld 
Maitland, which his mother at once chanted to the 
Shirra. Scott was as happy as his own Monk- 
barns, when he overheard Elspeth of the Burnfoot 
crooning the ballad of Harlaw. The old lady told 






BALLAD COLLECTING 33 

the Shirra that she had learned Auld Maitland 
" frae auld Andrew Moor, and he learned it frae 
auld Baby Metlin " (Maitland) " wha was house- 
keeper to the first " (Anderson) " laird of Tushi- 
law. She was said to have been another than a 
gude ane. . . ." 

Baby Metlin having this character, I sought for 
her, aided by the kindness of the minister of Et- 
trick, in the records of the Kirk Session of Ettrick, 
hoping to find her under Church censure for some 
lawless love. But there is no documentary trace 
of Baby, and the question is, could Hogg, then 
ignorant of libraries, above all of the Maitland 
MSS., have forged the ballad of Auld Maitland, 
and made his mother an accomplice in the pious 
fraud? It is to be remarked that Scott himself 
says that he obtained Auld Maitland in manuscript, 
from a farmer (Laidlaw), and that the copy was 
derived from the recital of " an old shepherd " 
(1802). None the less Mrs. Hogg may also have 
recited it, having learned it from the old shepherd, 
Auld Andrew Moor. It is a delicate point in bal- 
lad criticism. Such a hoax, at this date, by the 
wily shepherd, appears to me to be impossible, and 
I lean to a theory that Auld Maitland, and The 
Outlaw Murray, are literary imitations of the bal- 
lad, compiled late in the seventeenth or early in 
the eighteenth century, on some Maitland and 



34 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Murray traditions. In any case, Hogg had won 
the interest of Scott, whose temper he often tried 
but whose patience he never exhausted. For Ley- 
den, a more trustworthy collector of ballads, Scott 
secured an appointment in the East, " a distant and 
a deadly shore.' ' 

In 1802, the first two volumes of The Border 
Minstrelsy, later added to and emended, were 
published in London, with all the treasures of an- 
cient lore in prefaces and notes; the first fruits, and 
noble fruits they are, of Scott as an historian and 
writer in prose. Ballantyne, still at Kelso, was the 
printer. Scott remarks that " I observed more 
strict fidelity concerning my originals/' than Bishop 
Percy had done. To what extent he altered and 
improved his originals cannot be known. He con- 
fesses to " conjectural emendations " in Kinmont 
Willie, which he found " much mangled by recit- 
ers." Mr. Henderson credits him with verses 
ix-xii, " mainly," and with " numerous other 
touches." I do not think that in the ballad of 
Otterbourne he interpolated a passage bestowed on 
him by Mr. Henderson, for he twice quoted the 
lines in moments of great solemnity, and he was 
not the man to quote himself. The texts, though 
they passed the scrutiny of the fierce Ritson, are 
much more scientifically handled (with the aid of 
the Abbotsford and other MSS.) by Professor 



"LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL" 3S 

Child, in his noble collection. He notes over forty 
minute changes, in one ballad, from the MS. copy 
of Mrs. Brown. But The Border Minstrelsy 
gives the texts as the world knows them, as far 
as it does know them, while the prose elevates " a 
set of men whose worth was hardly known " to a 
pinnacle of romance. In their own days the Bor- 
der riders were regarded as public nuisances by 
statesmen, who only attempted to educate them 
by the method of the gibbet. But now they were 
the delight of " fine ladies, contending who shall be 
the most extravagant in encomium." A blessing 
on such fine ladies, who know what is good when 
they see it ! 

Scott says, with his usual acuteness, that we 
" sometimes impute that effect to the poet, which 
is produced by the recollections and associations 
which his verses excite." When a man has been 
born in the centre of Scott's sheriffdom, when every 
name of a place in the ballads and the Lay is dear 
and familiar to him, he cannot be the most impar- 
tial, though he may be not the least qualified critic 
of the poet, who, we must remember, wrote for 
his own people. By 1802, Scott announced to Ellis 
that he was engaged on " a long poem of my own 
... a kind of romance of Border chivalry, in a 
light horseman sort of stanza." This poem was 
The Lay of the Last Minstrel, which Borderers 



36 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

may be excused for thinking the best, the freshest, 
and the most spontaneous of all his romances in 
rhyme. The young Countess of Dalkeith (later, 
Duchess of Buccleuch) had heard from Mr. 
Beattie of Mickledale a story (known under an- 
other form, and as of recent date, in Glencoe) of 
a mysterious being who made his appearance at 
a farm house, and there resided. The being ut- 
tered the cry Tint, tint, tint! {Lost, lost, lost/), 
and was finally summoned away by a Voice calling 
to him by the name of Gilpin Horner. This legend 
was " universally credited " : Lady Dalkeith asked 
Scott to write a ballad on the theme, and thus Gil- 
pin, though criticized as an excrescence on the Lay, 
was really its only begetter. While he was won- 
dering what he could make of Gilpin, Scott heard 
part of Coleridge's Christabel, then in manuscript, 
recited by Sir John Stoddart. The measure of 
Christabel had previously been used in comic verse, 
by Anthony Hall, Anstey, Wolcott and others, and 
Scott seems to have assumed the right to employ 
it in a serious work. In this he showed something 
of the deficient sense of meum and tuum which 
marked his freebooting ancestors; and Coleridge, 
whose fragment was not published till many years 
later, resented the appropriation and often spoke 
of Scott's poetry with contempt. A year passed 
before Scott actually wrote the first stanzas of the 



" LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL " 37 

Lay. He read them to Erskine and Cranstoun, 
who said little, and he burned his manuscript. But 
later he found that the critics were too much puz- 
zled by the novelty of the poem to give an opinion, 
and when one of them, probably Erskine, sug- 
gested that an explanatory prologue was necessary, 
Scott introduced the Last Minstrel, chanting to 
Monmouth's widow, and went on with the work, 
" at about the rate of a canto a week." 

In this casual manner he " found himself," and 
his fame. The Lay was not published till 1805, 
and Scott's energies were being given to an edition 
of the romance of Sir Tristrem, and to elucidat- 
ing the true history of his favourite Thomas the 
Rymer, of Ercildoune. In later days he purchased 
The Rymer's Glen, so he chose to style it, below 
Eildon tree, with the burn which murmurs by the 
cottage of Chief swood. But Sir Tristrem and the 
Rymer were learned and unprofitable subjects. 
Despite his need of money, Sir Walter was always 
ready to spend his time and labour in literature 
which profited not, financially. " People may say 
this or that of the pleasure or fame or profit as a 
motive of writing," he remarks. " I think the only 
pleasure is the actual exertion and research. . . ." 

Society and his duties as Quartermaster-General 
of Volunteer horse were combined with research 
and composition. Invasion seemed imminent, and 



3 8 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Scott worked both at his cavalry drill and at or- 
ganizing the infantry militia of his sheriffdom. In 
September 1803 he met Wordsworth and his sister 
on their Scottish tour, when Wordsworth prayed 
for " an hour of that Dundee " who drove the 
army of Mackay in rout through the pass of Killie- 
crankie. It is curious to find Wordsworth, Ruskin 
and Scott united among the friends of Claver- 
house ! Wordsworth professed himself " greatly 
delighted " by Scott's recitation of four cantos of 
the Lay, though " the moving incident is not my 
trade," any more than admiration of contempora- 
ries was Wordsworth's foible. Later the admi- 
ration was mainly on the side of Scott, though 
Wordsworth made noble amends in his beautiful 
sonnet on Scott's final and fated voyage to Italy. 
Matters of finance were now occupying Scott. 
At the Bar he had never much more practice than 
that which came to him from his father's office. 
That was little indeed, usually under £200 a year, 
and grew less when Scott's father died, and his 
gifted but gay brother, Thomas, mismanaged the 
business. With his sheriffdom, his private re- 
sources, and a legacy of about £6,000 from an 
uncle, Scott was at the head of £1,000 a year. He 
succeeded in obtaining the reversion of a Clerkship 
in the Court of Sessions, doing the work for noth- 
ing while the holder, an old man, lived; and, in 



ASHESTIEL 39 

the end of 1805, he put his £6,000 into the print- 
ing business of James Ballantyne. 

This was the beginning of evils. A barrister 
ought not to be a secret partner in a commercial 
enterprise. Erskine alone knew the fact, and we 
do not hear that Erskine remonstrated. Lockhart 
regretted that Scott, who was now obliged to fix 
on a residence within his sheriffdom, did not buy 
Broadmeadows with his windfall of £6,000. The 
place is beautifully situated on the wooded left 
bank of Yarrow, between Hangingshaw and Bow- 
hill, and hard by the cottage of Mungo Park, the 
African traveller. Here Scott might have lived 
happy and remote, in the heart of his own country. 
But he was no hermit, he loved society, and he 
could not give up his military duties. He left Lass- 
wade, the Gandercleugh of his Tales of my Land- 
lord, and rented from a Russell cousin Ashestiel, 
a small house, in part very old, on a steep cliff over- 
hanging the Tweed, above Yair. Only the hills 
behind the house severed him from Yarrow, the 
fishing was excellent, hard by is Elibank, the tower 
of his ancestress, " Muckle Mou'd Meg," and Sel- 
kirk, where he administered justice, is within an 
easy ride. The bridge over Tweed was not yet 
built, and Scott had the unfading pleasure of risk- 
ing his life in riding the flooded ford. Here Scott 
reclaimed that honest poacher, Tom Purdie, his 



40 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

lifelong retainer and friend, who, with rustic lib- 
erality of speech, expressed his high opinion of 
Mrs. Scott's attractions. Hard by is Sunderland 
Hall, where Leslie's troops bivouacked before they 
surprised Montrose at Philiphaugh, and at Sun- 
derland Hall was an excellent antiquarian library 
open to the Shirra. Of him little trace remains at 
Ashestiel, save the huge arm-chair which was bor- 
rowed for him in his latest days of paralysis. At 
the Peel, within a few hundred yards, he had 
an intelligent neighbour, Mrs. Laidlaw, wife of 
" Laird Nippy," a bonnet laird of an ancient line 
which lay under an old curse, not unfulfilled. To 
Mrs. Laidlaw Scott presented all his poems, which, 
by her bequest, have come into the hands of the 
present writer. Had Scott been the owner, not the 
tenant, of Ashestiel, Abbotsford would never have 
existed, " that unhappy palace of his race." 

It was in January 1805 that the Lay was pub- 
lished by Messrs. Longman. To appreciate the 
Lay and its success, we must either have read it in 
childhood, when " glamour " seems a probable art 
(as to some unknown extent it really is) , and when 
lamps that burn eternally in tombs present no dif- 
ficulties to the reason ; or we must have imagination 
enough to understand how perfectly and delight- 
fully novel was the poem. There had been a long 
interregnum in poetry in England. Cowper, as we 






,jjlm 



" LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL " 41 

learn from Miss Marianne Dashwood in Sense and 
Sensibility, was Scott's only rival, and Cowper is 
not romantic. Wordsworth and Coleridge were 
practically unknown to " the reading public," 
Burns was barred by " the dialect," the school of 
Pope had dwindled into The Triumphs of Temper. 
Meanwhile Mrs. Radcliffe had kindled and fed 
the sacred lamp of love for all that Catherine Mor- 
land thought " truly horrid," and had been a fa- 
vourite of Scott himself. In the Lay the eager 
public found mysteries far exceeding in delightful- 
ness those of Mrs. Radcliffe, found magic genuine, 
all unlike her spells which are explained away ; they 
found many novel and galloping measures of verse ; 
they found nature; and they found a knowledge 
of the past such as has never been combined with 
glowing poetic imagination. 

Mr. Saintsbury says with truth that " a very 
large, perhaps the much larger, part of the appeal 
of the Lay was metrical." Scott appeared to be 
as much an innovator in metres as Mr. Swinburne 
was, sixty years after him. Scott knew nothing at 
all (nor do I) about " the iambic dimeter, freely 
altered by the licences of equivalence, anacrusis, 
and catalexis " : to him these terms were " bonny 
critic's Greek," and as unintelligible as, to Andrew 
Fairservice, was " bonny lawyer's Latin." But it 
does seem that he gave " extreme care " to his 



42 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

" scheme of metre " in the Lay, not arranging it, 
as he said of one of his novels, " with as much care 
as the rest, that is, with no care at all." The result, 
to quote Mr. Saintsbury, is " to some tastes, a 
medium quite unsurpassed for the particular pur- 
pose," and Scott's later poems are, I venture to 
think, in metre less exquisitely appropriate, and 
more monotonous. His rhymed romances are in 
no sense epic, they are a new kind of composition 
based on the ballad, but, owing to their length, in 
need of constant variety of cadence. All these 
qualities were in the highest degree novel, and 
never to be successfully imitated, seriously, though 
susceptible of parody. 

We do not now appreciate the charm of all this 
freshness. We live a century later, " the gambol 
has been shown," the Pegasus of romance has been 
put through all his paces before generations of 
biases observers; witches, goblins, and reivers are 
hackneyed, and only the young (for whom Scott, 
like Theocritus, professedly sang) can recapture 
the joy with which the world hailed the Lay. We 
have, moreover, what our ancestors of 1805 had 
not, the verse of Shelley, Wordsworth, Tennyson, 
Keats, and Coleridge present in our memories, 
verse deeply meditated, rich in thought, delicate in 
expression, " every reef loaded with gold." Scott 
has these great rivals now, in 1805 he had no rivals 



A __ ; ' 



" LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL " 43 

save those who filled the times, already remote, of 
great Elizabeth. Thus only the young, and they 
who have in their hearts every name and memory 
of Scott's hills and waters, can offer to the Lay, or 
to his other narrative poems, the welcome that the 
country gave in 1805. Only we, old Borderers, 
or fresh boys and girls, are at the point of view. 
Others may style the Lay " a thirdrate Waverley 
novel in rhyme," " let ilka man rouse the ford as he 
finds it " ; it is a ford which I have many times rid- 
den with pleasure during many years. Out of the 
romance I choose an episodic passage, in essence, 
though not in numbers, a ballad : it tells, tradition- 
ally, how the clan of Scott won fair Eskdale. 
Probably they obtained it on the forfeiture of a 
liege lord far from " tame," that Maxwell who, 
on the execution of the red Regent, took the Mor- 
ton title, dared the Douglas feud, and supported 
the Catholic cause to his ruin. But tradition speaks 
otherwise. 

Scotts of Eskdale, a stalwart band, 
Came trooping down to Todshawhill; 

By the sword they won their land, 
And by the sword they hold it still. 

Hearken, Ladye, to the tale, 
How thy sons won fair Eskdale. . . . 
Earl Morton was lord of that valley fair, 
The Beattisons were his vassals there. 



44 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

The Earl was gentle, and mild of mood, 

The vassals were warlike, and fierce, and rude; 

High of heart and haughty of word, 

Little they reck'd of a tame liege lord 

The Earl into fair Eskdale came, 

Homage and seignory to claim: 

Of Gilbert the Galliard a heriot he sought, 

Saying, "Give thy best steed, as a vassal ought." 

. . . "Dear to me is my bonny white steed, 

Oft has he help'd me at pinch of need; 

Lord and Earl though thou be, I trow, 

I can rein Bucksfoot better than thou." . . . 

Word on word gave fuel to fire, 

Till so highly blazed the Beattison's ire, 

But that the Earl the flight had ta'en, 

The vassals there their lord had slain. 

Sore he plied both whip and spur, 

As he urged his steed through Eskdale muir; 

And it fell down a weary weight, 

Just on the threshold of Branksome gate. 

The Earl was a wrathful man to see, 
Full fain avenged would he be, 
In haste to Branksome's Lord he spoke, 
Saying — "Take these traitors to thy yoke: 
For a cast of hawks, and a purse of gold 
All Eskdale I'll sell thee to have and hold 
Beshrew thy heart, of the Beattisons' clan 
If thou leavest on Eske a landed man; 
But spare Woodkerrick's lands alone, 
For he lent me his horse to escape upon." 
A glad man then was Branksome bold, 
Down he flung him the purse of gold; 



" LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL " 45 

To Eskdale soon he spurred amain, 

And with him five hundred riders has ta'en. 

He left his merrymen in the mist of the hill, 

And bade them hold them close and still; 

And alone he wended to the plain, 

To meet with the Galliard and all his train. 

To Gilbert the Galliard thus he said : . . . 

"Know thou me for thy liege-lord and head; 

Deal not with me as with Morton tame, 

For Scots play best at the roughest game. 

Give me in peace my heriot due, 

Thy bonny white steed, or thou shalt rue. 

If my horn I three times wind, 

Eskdale shall long have the sound in mind." . . . 

Loudly the Beattison laugh'd in scorn; 

"Little care we for thy winded horn. 

Ne'er shall it be the Galliard's lot 

To yield his steed to a haughty Scott. 

Wend thou to Branksome back on foot, 

With rusty spur and miry boot." . . . 

He blew his bugle so loud and hoarse, 

That the dun deer started at fair Craikcross; 

He blew again so loud and clear, 

Through the gray mountain-mist there did lances appear; 

And the third blast rang with such a din 

That the echoes answered from Pentoun-linn, 

And all his riders came lightly in. 

Then had you seen a gallant shock, 

When saddles were emptied, and lances broke! 

For each scornful word the Galliard had said, 

A Beattison on the field was laid. 

His own good sword the chieftain drew, 

And he bore the Galliard through and through; 



46 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Where the Beattisons' blood mix'd with the rill, 
The Galliard's Haugh men call it still. 
The Scots have scatter'd the Beattison clan, 
In Eskdale they left but one landed man. 
The valley of Eske, from the mouth to the source, 
Was lost and won for that bonny white horse. 

For the rest, from fair Margaret, the lost love, 

Lovelier than the rose so red, 
Yet paler than the violet pale, 

to Wat Tinnlin, and 

The hot and hardy Rutherford 

Whom men called Dickon-draw-the-sword, 

the characters are all my ancient friends, and the 
time has been when the romance was history to me. 
The history, of course, is handled with all Scott's 
freedom. Michael Scott had been dead for sev- 
eral centuries, not for some seventy years, and the 
approximate date of the tale must be the year of 
the religious revolution, 1559-1560; "the Re- 
gent " must be Mary of Guise. Men no longer 
made their vows to St. Modan and St. Mary of 
the Lowes, whose chapel the Scots burned in 
1557: it had become fashionable to wreck 
churches, thanks to preaching bakers and tailors, 
Paul Methuen and Harlaw. Be these things 
as they may, and let critics be critics as of old, 



" LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL " 47 

Still Yarrow, as he rolls along 
Bears burden to the Minstrel's song. 

The Lay j as Scott wrote to Wordsworth, " has the 
merit of being written with heart and good will, 
and for no other reason than to discharge my mind 
of the ideas which from infancy have rushed upon 
it. I believe such verses will generally be found 
interesting, because enthusiastic." Whoso reads 
the Lay as it was written, " with heart and good- 
will," is not likely to complain of its lack of inter- 
est. The opening dialogue of the Spirits of river 
and hill, the ride of William of Deloraine through 
the red spate of Ail water, the scene of fair Mel- 
rose beheld aright, the opening of the Wizard's 
tomb, in the splendour of the lamp that burns eter- 
nally; the fluttering viewless forms that haunt the 
aisles; the tilting between Cranstoun and Delo- 
raine; the pranks of the page; the courage of the 
young Buccleuch; his bluff English captors; the 
bustle of the Warden's raid; the riding in of the 
outlying mosstroopers; the final scene of the Wiz- 
ard's appearance and the passing of the page; 
with the beautiful ballads of the minstrels, make 
up a noble set of scenes, then absolutely fresh and 
poignant. 

While the public, unlike Sir Henry Eaglefield, 
did not need three readings to convince them of 
the excellence of the Lay, the critics were as wise 



48 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

as usual. It is never easy to keep one's temper in 
reading Jeffrey's criticisms. If not " the ideal 
whipper-snapper," at least he was always thinking, 
not of the natural appeal of a poet " to the simple 
primary feelings of his kind," but of what Mr. 
Jeffrey could say to the abatement of the poet's 
merits. Ellis thought Jeffrey's review " equally 
acute and impartial," and it was impartial com- 
pared with his critique of Marmion. The poem 
should have been something else, not what it was. 
It should have " been more full of incident," as if 
it could be more full of incident ! The Goblin was 
" a merely local superstition," to which Scott, of 
all men, could most easily have replied by proofs 
that the superstition, practically that of the 
Brownie, is universal. For example Froissart gives 
us, in Orthon, a goblin page, though not a malevo- 
lent specimen of the genus. Jeffrey said, and one 
would " like to have felt Mr. Jeffrey's bumps " — 
as Charles Lamb said of a less famous dullard — 
that " Mr. Scott must either sacrifice his Border 
prejudices, or offend his readers in the other parts 
of the Empire ! " Jeffrey writes like the snappish 
pedant of a provincial newspaper. When Mar- 
mion appeared, Jeffrey found, on the other hand, 
that it was not Scottish enough! Pitt and Fox 
equally admired the work, the public bought it as 
poetry is no longer bought, and Scott sold his copy- 



"WAVERLEY" BEGUN 49 

right at the ransom of £500, which, with a royalty 
of £169 6s. on the first edition, and a present of 
£100 to buy a horse, from Messrs. Longman, 
made up his whole literary profits on the trans- 
action. 

The money probably went into his printing 
business, with Ballantyne & Co., and already 
(1805) we find that firm "receiving accommo- 
dation from Sir William Forbes," the banker. 
They were always receiving or being refused " ac- 
commodation " ; Scottish business had a paper 
basis ; its bills represented fairy gold that turned to 
withered leaves; though Scott, as an Editor (of 
Dry den's works at this time), put large quantities 
of business in the way of his printing firm. His 
practice at the Bar was a thing of the past: he was 
waiting for dead men's shoes as a Clerk of the 
Court of Session; and, while toiling over Dryden's 
works, he began JVaverley, hoping to publish it by 
Christmas 1805. He purposely did not make a 
brilliant start, though the description of Edward 
Waverley's studies is a copy of his own, and Will- 
iam Erskine did not think highly of the first seven 
chapters. So Scott threw the manuscript aside, to 
his admirers a misfortune. JVaverley would have 
been as great a success as it was nine years later: 
Scott would have worked the new vein, the " Bo- 
nanza mine," and for eighteen new Waverley nov- 



50 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

els (at the rate of two yearly) we would cheerfully 
give up Marmion, The Lady of the Lake, Rokeby, 
and The Lord of the Isles. Dis aliter visum. 

It was now that Scott adopted the system of 
rising from bed to write at five in the morning. 
On one occasion he had the cruelty to return and 
awake Mrs. Scott, with the tidings, which he knew 
to be wholly uninteresting to her, that he had dis- 
covered the meaning of the name of a burn that 
passes through his estate. While taking brief holi- 
day at Gilsland, he was summoned to mount and 
ride to Dalkeith, the rendezvous of the Forest, 
by the beacon fire which proved to be a false alarm. 
The story is told in The Antiquary. Scott met the 
Forest men pouring in down every water, and I 
have heard, from my own people, that the inhabi- 
tants of the little Border towns meant to burn them, 
if Napoleon landed, drive their flocks into the hills, 
and fight it out in the old Border way, a burnt 
country and a guerilla foe. It was during his ride 
of a hundred miles in twenty- four hours that Scott 
composed the lines beginning — 

The forest of Glenmore is dree, 

It is all of black pine and the dark oak tree. 

The April of 1806 saw Scott in London ; already 
a " lion," he was presented at the tiny Court of 
Caroline, Princess of Wales, who at this time was 



PARTY SPIRIT 51 

taken up by the Tories, as the Prince of Wales was 
then of the Whig party ; much as another Prince of 
Wales, Frederick, was something of a Jacobite. 
He found that the Princess had an exaggerated 
freedom of manner, and presently " it came to be 
thought so." She called him " a faint-hearted 
troubadour," and he had no mind for the part of 
Chastelard. In town he met Joanna Baillie, whose 
plays he appreciated with more of generosity than 
critical faculty. His instalment as Clerk of Session 
was not welcomed by the Whigs, and, in irritation, 
" he for the first time put himself forward as a de- 
cided Tory partisan." The Tories, at all events, 
were not pro-French. It would have been well if 
Scott could have taken the advice of Lord Dalkeith 
(Feb. 20, 1806), "Go to the hills and converse 
with the Spirit of the Fells, or any Spirit but the 
Spirit of Party, which is the fellest fiend that ever 
disturbed Harmony and social pleasure." 

On June 27, 1806, Scott wrote his " Health to 
Lord Melville," the Tory governing spirit of Scot- 
land, whom the Whigs were impeaching. James 
Ballantyne sang this lay at a public dinner on Lord 
Melville's acquittal. The Princess of Wales was 
saluted in this song, which contained the words 
11 Tally ho to the Fox " (C. J. Fox). This does 
not appear an amazing indiscretion, in a parcel of 
party verses, but the Whigs were greatly shocked. 



52 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

If a Briton must be a party man, he may as right- 
eously belong to one party as the other. But the 
Whigs ever cherished the belief that they were the 
righteous. The worst effect of Scott's politics was 
his connexion with journals, from the stately Quar- 
terly to the inglorious Beacon, which carried po- 
litical rancour into literary criticism. It is true that 
Hazlitt wrote as furiously and vilely against Cole- 
ridge in The Edinburgh Review, which was Whig, 
as any one ever did against Keats in The Quarterly, 
which is Tory. But Whig offences, in history as 
in literature, are condoned by historians, and for- 
gotten by most people, while Gifford, of the Quar- 
terly, and the conductors of Blackwood remain in 
the pillory. In any case, with the brutal outrages 
of criticism Scott had nothing to do. He was fore- 
most to praise Frankenstein, supposing it to be by 
Shelley, when Shelley was the target of Tory in- 
sults ; and he invited Charles Lamb to Abbotsford, 
when Lamb was being attacked as a leader of the 
Cockney School. 1 Lamb missed the chance of 
coursing and salmon fishing with a Scot who would 
not have aroused in him " an imperfect sympathy." 
However Lamb and Shelley were not known 
in Scotland in 1806, when the affairs of Scott's 
brother Thomas made it necessary for Walter to 

1 1 noticed Lamb's ' reply, declining the invitation, in the 
MSS. at Abbotsford. 



11 MARMION " 53 

earn money by his pen. He received £1,000 from 
Constable for the copyright of an unwritten poem, 
Marmion, and mortgaged his time and genius to 
help a brother. Constable was then rather a 
dealer in rare old books than a publisher, but he 
foresaw Scott's success, and outbid Messrs. Long- 
man, if, indeed, they made any bid at all. To his 
brother Thomas he wrote a series of letters, still, 
I think, unpublished, and mainly noteworthy for 
the goodness of head, the wisdom, the benevolence 
and tact of the writer. By the end of 1807 he was 
finishing at once his Life of Dry den, and his Mar- 
mion ; who, as he wrote to Lady Louisa Stuart in 
January 1808, is " gasping upon Flodden Field," 
though Scott hoped, that day, " to knock him on 
the head with a few thumping stanzas." When we 
remember that, by his brother's failure, the whole 
affairs of the estates of the Marquis of Abercorn 
were thrown on his hands " in a state of unutterable 
confusion," and at his own responsibility, we may 
estimate his industry. Describing the research 
needed by his Dryden he writes — 

From my research the boldest spiders fled, 
And moths retreating trembled as I read, 

while at the same time he was leading Marmion 
from disgrace to death, and was passing the heart 
of the day in his official duties (1807). But by 



5 4 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

the end of February 1808, Marmion was in the 
hands of the public, equipped with the charming 
epistles to friends which precede the cantos. 

Contrasting the over full life of Scott, and all 
his innumerable distractions, with the " day long 
blessed idleness " of Tennyson, we cannot expect 
from Marmion the delicate finish of The Idylls of 
the King, On the other hand, if Scott had enjoyed 
the leisure of Tennyson, his rhymed romances 
would not have been better or other than they are. 

In the Introduction to Canto Third, written to 
Erskine, he tells us that criticism was wasted on 
him — 

Then wild as cloud, or stream or gale, 
Flow on, flow unconfined, my tale. 

He will not imitate 

those masters, o'er whose tomb 
Immortal laurels ever bloom, 
Instructive of the feeble bard 

as the murmurs from the tomb may be. He will 
not even desert the fabled past to chant the glories 
of the " Red Cross Hero" (Sir Sidney Smith), 
nor of Sir Ralph Abercromby. But he foresees 
and predicts 

The hour of Germany's revenge, 




a £ 



o a 
«n o 



£ .5 



" MARMION " 55 

and that then 

When breathing fury for her sake, 
Some new Arminius shall awake, 
Her champion, ere he strike, shall come, 
To whet his sword on Brunswick's tomb. 

In few years the hour and the champion came, 
Field-Marshal Von Bliicher. A poet has seldom 
been a better prophet. 

The plot of Marmion is in one way strangely 
akin to the plot of Ivanhoe. In both we have a 
hard-bitten, hard-hearted, and unscrupulous knight, 
Marmion and the Templar. In both we have a 
pilgrim guide, who is no pilgrim, but a knight in 
disguise, returned from exile, with a deep grudge 
against the Templar, or Marmion (Wilfred, Wil- 
ton). Both sets of partners are rivals in love, at 
least if Wilfred, as we believe, loved Rebecca. In 
both we have a tourney between the rivals, in which 
Marmion and the Templar are defeated by Wilton 
and Wilfred. But Marmion's behaviour, both in 
regard to his lady page, and in the matter of the 
forgery, is much worse than that of the Templar 
at his worst, though, amidst his infamy, he is a 
knight as bold and haughty as the traitor Ganelon 
in the Chanson de Roland. The high revenge of 
the lady page, Constance, as she goes to her death 
by hunger, stirred even Jeffrey. " The scene of 



56 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

elfin chivalry " in which Marmion tilts with the 
phantom knight, was suggested by a Latin legend, 
forged and sent to Scott by Surtees of Mainsforth, 
who several times palmed off on the Sheriff ballads 
of his own making. Pitscottie, the candid old Fife- 
shire chronicler, supplied the omens which, as in 
the Odyssey, lead up to the catastrophe of Flodden 
Field. Marmion was made to travel to Edinburgh 
by a path that mortal man never took, Scott de- 
siring to describe the castles on the way, and a fa- 
vourite view of Edinburgh from Blackford Hill. 
This passage of landscape has been elaborately and 
justly praised by Mr. Ruskin. For poetical pur- 
poses Lady Heron is brought to Holyrood, though 
she was at her castle beneath Flodden Edge, and 
the artifice is justified by her song of Young Loch~ 
invar. But it is the closing battle piece that makes 
the fortune of Marmion. 

" All ends in song," and in song end Scotland's 
sorrows for that fatal unforgotten fight, in which 
all was lost but honour. Scarce a great family but 
lost her sons, the yeomen and peasants died like 
paladins, and the strongest of the Stuart kings 
made the best end of all of them, rushing forth 
from the fighting " schiltrom " and falling, pierced 
with arrows and hacked with bills, not a lance's 
length from the English general. For this we have 
Surrey's own word, and true it is that if the Scots 



JEFFREY 57 

were never led with less skill, they never did battle 
with more indomitable courage. Had not every 
leader fallen, save Home, the next day would have 
seen a renewal of the battle — 

Where shivered was fair Scotland's Spear, 
And broken was her shield. 

Flodden secured the success of Marmion, and 
gave the laurels to the brow of Scott. But it is 
certain that our age could dispense with Clara and 
her lover! The fiend of party, detested by Lord 
Dalkeith, moved the Whigs to take umbrage be- 
cause more moan was made for Pitt than for Fox 
in one of the Introductory pieces, where by an error 
of the press several lines of the lament for Fox 
were omitted in early copies. " All the Whigs 
here are in arms against Marmion" wrote Scott 
(March 13, 1808). Jeffrey now complained of 
" the manifest neglect of Scottish feelings," which 
had been so injuriously flattered in the Lay, to 
the indignation of the rest of the Empire ! Lock- 
hart justly remarks that it was the British patriot- 
ism which vexed Jeffrey, whose Edinburgh Review 
did its best to throw cold water on the spirit of 
national resistance to Napoleon. He professed 
that his stupid criticism was a well meant effort to 
draw Scott from " so idle a task " as that in which 
he displayed his " pedantry." Scott could bear the 



58 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

spite till Jeffrey charged him with want of patriot- 
ism, and that arrow rankled. Jeffrey dined with 
him on the day when Scott read the critique, and 
was cordially received, but his host ceased to write 
in the Edinburgh Review, and raised up another 
like unto it, a rival, the Tory Quarterly. 






CHAPTER III 

QUARTERLY REVIEW, LADY OF THE 

LAKE, ROKEBY, BALLANTYNE 

AFFAIRS 

As Scott had now become a professional man of 
letters, while remaining a well paid official, it may 
be convenient to glance at the state of the literary 
calling in 1808. Britain was not yet a wildly ex- 
citable and hysterical country. Rapidity of com- 
munication of news had not irritated the nerves 
of the community. We won or lost a battle, but as 
men knew nothing about it till long after the event, 
as they did not sit with their eyes on a tape, as 
there were not fresh editions of the evening news- 
paper every quarter of an hour, they could be en- 
gaged in war without wholly abandoning the study 
and purchase of books. A few years after Scott's 
death, a Parliamentary Commission inquired into 
the financial conditions of publishers and authors. 
The Commission learned, from one of Messrs. 
Longmans' firm, that it was not unusual for 

59 



6o SIR WALTER SCOTT 

gentlemen to " form libraries " (the expression 
" every gentleman's library " survives as a jest) , 
but that the practice began to decline in 1814, and 
had now ceased to be. 

The man who killed the formation of private 
libraries was Walter Scott. His JVaverley ap- 
peared in 1 8 14, and henceforth few people pur- 
chased any books except novels. Poetry soon be- 
came a " drug in the market," and the taste for 
" the classics," whether ancient or modern, died 
away: the novel was everything, and presently 
novels were procured from the circulating library. 

It was the fortune of Scott to take full advan- 
tage of the traditional usage of " forming libra- 
ries " in the years between the appearance of the 
Lay and of Waverley. He edited Dryden in 
many volumes, and was fairly well paid. By, 
doubling the price, Constable induced him to edit 
Swift's works, and to write the best extant Life of 
Swift. He also edited the important Sadleir Pa- 
pers, the diplomatic correspondence of the agent 
of Henry VIII and Elizabeth, a most valuable 
book to the historian, and he was concerned in 
many antiquarian publications. These were under- 
taken partly from love of the past, partly for the 
purpose of gaining employment for needy men of 
letters like Henry Weber, a German who later be- 
came insane and challenged Scott to a pistol duel 



" QUARTERLY REVIEW" 61 

across a table ! Constable was usually the publisher 
of the ventures, but Constable had a partner, a 
Mr. Hunter, a laird, no less, who bullied Weber, 
and behaved to Scott in a manner which he deemed 
insufferable. 

Again, politics came between Constable and 
Scott. Constable was the publisher of the Edin- 
burgh Review, which had filled up the measure of 
its iniquities. No man likes to be called an unpa- 
triotic pedant, and Jeffrey, in the Edinburgh Re- 
view, had called Scott both pedantic and unpa- 
triotic. Again, the year 1808 saw the Spanish 
national rising against Napoleon. Backed by 
Britain and Wellington, and by the infatuation of 
Bonaparte himself, 1 by the fatuous Moscow expe- 
dition, and the revenge of Germany, the rising 
of the Peninsula overthrew the French Emperor. 
But the Edinburgh Review and the Whigs had no 
taste for a national rising in the name of freedom. 
The Spanish, they observed, were a Catholic and 
intolerant people, not like the liberal French. The 
Spanish insurrections began in massacres of unpop- 
ular officials, and, at Valencia (June 6, 7, 1808), 
in the murder of the whole colony of French 
merchants in the town. That French Republican 
mobs should massacre uncounted victims was very 

1 '%<f>rj<TW a.Ta(r6aX(,rj(TLv virep fiopov aXye t^pvaiv. 



62 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

well : it was intolerable to the Whigs that Spanish 
Catholic mobs should imitate them. The Spanish 
cause was both disreputable and desperate, said the 
Whigs. England, if she aided Spain, must perish 
in the same ruin. Such was the song of the Edin- 
burgh Review, at that time the only critical journal 
conducted by educated men. Meanwhile Scott 
recognized the genius of Wellesley — " I would to 
God he were now at the head of the English in 
Spain ! " 

For personal and political reasons then, as a 
patriot and a poet outraged, Scott determined not 
only to counteract the Edinburgh Review, but to 
set up a rival to Constable, its publisher. It is diffi- 
cult to trace each step in his scheme of resistance 
to Constable and Whiggery. But John Murray, 
then a young publisher in London, saw his oppor- 
tunity of winning Scott away from Constable; he 
determined to back, financially, the Ballantynes in 
London, and he visited Ashestiel in October 1808. 
He had heard of the nascent Lady of the Lake, he 
had heard of Waverley as " on the stocks," and he 
wished to have his share. From a letter of Scott 
to his brother Thomas, we learn that the old staff 
of The Antijacobin, including Canning, now Prime 
Minister, and Frere, had been " hatching a plot " 
for a Tory rival to the Edinburgh Review, Scott 
had been offered the Editorship, with " great 






,-. ..■■ J ..-^.- <-_..... ■■-,-■ X -- ~r -■^-,-i-^. —^ ^^^^ ^ „^ mmmtt ^. 



" QUARTERLY REVIEW " 6 3 

prospects of emolument/' and the new serial was 
to have private information from Government. 
But for many obvious reasons, Scott could not take 
the Editorship, which fell to Gifford, a man of bad 
health, bad temper, and procrastinating habits, 
feared and unpopular as a satirist. Heber and 
Ellis, however, were ready to aid contributors, and 
Scott's letters reveal his opinion of the state of lit- 
erary criticism. 

As is usual, periodical criticism revelled in " a 
facetious and rejoicing ignorance." Specialists 
could not write what the public would read; editors 
like Jeffrey added flippancy to their dull lucubra- 
tions. Reviewing had long been indolently good 
natured: the Edinburgh Review had set the fashion 
of being tart and bitter; the fashion pleased, and 
" the minor reviews give us all abuse and no tal- 
ent." The age of " slashing " criticism had begun, 
and Scott held that " decent, lively, and reflecting 
criticism " would be welcome. He knew Gifford's 
temper, and hoped to abate it. " We must keep 
our swords clear as well as sharp, and not forget 
the gentlemen in the critics." Had Scott accepted 
the Editorship, with Heber, Ellis, Southey, and 
other gentlemen for his aides, the Quarterly would 
have been what he desired it to be. But a satirist 
was the Editor, and for long the tone was " savage 
and tartarly," in cases well remembered. Many of 



64 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Scott's best essays, however, appeared in the Quar- 
terly. 

His indignation, and we may say his infatuation, 
found vent in another project. Lockhart may be 
too severe in his account of James Ballantyne's 
brother John, who, after failing in various undig- 
nified lines, was started as a publisher by Scott, in 
1809. Scott supplied most of the capital; John 
was expected to manage the accounts, and so the 
fatal business began. Nobody could call the Bal- 
lantynes " gentlemen," whether in a heraldic or 
any other sense of the word. But both, in several 
ways, consciously or unconsciously amused Scott; 
he was deeply attached to them, and they to him. 
That he had such henchmen was his own fault: 
they were, so to speak, his Cochranes and Oliver 
Sinclairs, the unworthy favourites who were the 
ruin of the old Stuart Kings. Lockhart says that 
" a more reckless, thoughtless, improvident adven- 
turer " than the festive John " never rushed into 
the serious responsibilities of business," while 
James " never understood book-keeping or could 
bring himself to attend to it with regularity." 
Scott, on the other hand, thoroughly understood 
business, and kept systematic accounts of his pri- 
vate expenditure. 

But his success carried him, as it carried the 
great Emperor his contemporary, beyond himself. 



. ^ ^ , y *..-*-—. ...... a 



THE BALLANTYNE COMPANY 6s 

He felt adequate to all labours, however diverse; 
he was as confident as Napoleon in his own star; 
he entered on this publishing business as Napoleon 
invaded Russia, without organized supplies (for 
Mr. Murray soon withdrew from the Ballantyne 
alliance), and disaster was always at his doors. 
Between 1805 and 18 10 he invested at least 
£9,000 in the Ballantyne companies, and night by 
night the fairy gold won by his imagination 
changed into worthless paper. We cannot here 
attempt to distribute exactly the shares of blame 
which fall to Scott and to the Ballantynes. Mr. 
Cadell uses the word " hallucination " to qualify 
Scott's part in the business. I have examined these 
complicated matters carefully, 1 and the gist of the 
explanation lies in a remark of James Ballantyne. 
" The large sums received never formed an addi- 
tion to stock. In fact they were all expended by 
the partners, who, being then young and sanguine 
men, not unwillingly adopted my brother John's 
sanguine results." They accepted John's book- 
keeping at a venture, and, to use a slang phrase, 
they " blued " the apparent profits. That is the 
secret. 

To leave a repulsive theme, in 1809 Scott visited 
the Highlands, he began The Lady of the Lake, 
which had long " simmered " in his mind, and he 

1 Life of Lockbart, vol. ii. pp. 126-172. 



66 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

rode Fitz James's ride from Loch Vennachar to 
Stirling, finding it practicable, though the ground, 
to be sure, must have been very different in the days 
of James V, when lochs occupied what is now ara- 
ble land. At Buchanan House, on this tour, he 
read English Bards and Scotch Reviewers , and 
briefly spoke of the author as " a whelp of a young 
Lord Byron . . . abusing me for endeavouring to 
scratch out a living with my pen. God help the 
bear if, having little else to eat, he must not even 
suck his own paws." But, like the Moslems in 
Thackeray's White Squall, he " thought but little 
of it," and did not dream of repaying Byron in 
kind. 

As he wrote to Lady Abercorn, " If I did not 
rather dislike satire from principle than feel myself 
altogether disqualified from it by nature, I have the 
means of very severe retaliation in my power," par- 
ticularly with respect to the Whigs of Holland 
House. Scott never used his powers as a satirist. 
He was remarkably skilled in the playful imitation 
of the styles of other poets, a faculty scarcely to 
have been expected from one so careless of finish 
in his own productions. He could easily have re- 
taliated on Byron and others in the manner of 
Pope; but, as he thought, satire is the lowest, 
because the least sincere, of all forms of composi- 
tion. Mankind is weary of the points and the 



NO SATIRIST 67 

feigned indignation of the satirist, and as " damns 
have had their day," according to Bob Acres, ver- 
sified satire too is fortunately in the limbo of 
things obsolete. 

Scott seems usually to have had in his mind the 
theme for his next poem but one before he had 
finished its predecessor. In an excursion to Stir- 
ling, during the autumn of 1808, he told Mrs. 
Scott that he hoped one day " to make the earth 
yawn " at Bannockburn, " and devour the English 
archery and knighthood, as it did on that celebrated 
day of Scottish glory." The design was long de- 
ferred, and when it was fulfilled, the Earth is not 
the only person who yawns in the course of The 
Lord of the Isles. 

In a life that was now very happy, whether spent 
in London, in Edinburgh, or in coursing and 
spearing salmon with the Ettrick Shepherd at 
Ashestiel, Scott occupied his morning hours with 
his edition of Swift, with the editing of the Somers 
Tracts, and with The Lady of the Lake, which ap- 
peared in May 18 10. 

The feud with Constable was now dying of 
natural decline, and Scott and Jeffrey were quite 
forgetting their differences. Scott had never con- 
cealed from Jeffrey his opinion that the critic knew 
nothing of the heart and glow of poetry, and 
Jeffrey, before publishing his review of The Lady 



68 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

of the Lake sent his proof sheets to Scott, express- 
ing his regret for the " heedless asperities " in the 
criticism of Marmion. " Believe me when I say 
that I am sincerely proud both of your genius and 
your glory, and that I value your friendship more 
highly than most of either my literary or political 
opinions." Jeffrey was a good fellow at heart, 
though, in criticising contemporary poetry, he 
spoke most highly of a certain Professor Brown! 
He found The Lady of the Lake " more polished 
in its diction " than its predecessors, and certainly 
its rhyming octosyllabic couplets are more monot- 
onous than the varied cadences of the Lay. " It 
never expresses a sentiment which it can cost the 
most ordinary reader any exertion to comprehend," 
which is true enough, but is no less true of the Iliad 
and the Odyssey. The general chorus of praise, 
and the rush of tourists to Loch Katrine and Ellen's 
Isle, did not turn Scott's head, or persuade him 
that he was a poet of the first order. Miss Scott 
told James Ballantyne that she had not read The 
Lady of the Lake. " Papa says there is nothing 
so bad for young people as reading bad poetry." 
Yet he confessedly wrote for " young people of 
spirit." He says, " I can, with honest truth, ex- 
culpate myself from having been at any time a par- 
tisan of my own poetry, even when it was in the 
highest fashion with the million." 



" LADY OF THE LAKE " 69 

Meanwhile, whosoever, in youth, has read the 
magical lines — 

The stag at eve had drunk his fill 
Where danced the moon on Monan's rill, 

and has followed the chase across the Brig of 
Turk, to 

The lone lake's western boundary 

has to thank Scott for leading him into the paradise 
of romance, and cares not how low the literary crit- 
ics may rate the Minstrel. Such a reader has been 

with 

mountains that like giants stand 
To sentinel enchanted land. 

Other enchanted lands there are, but to one Scott 
has given him the key, to a land where the second- 
sighted man foretells the coming of the stranger, 
and the prophet sleeps swathed in the black bull's 
hide in the spray of the haunted linn. 

Never can we forget the hurrying succession of 
pictures that pass by the bearer of the fiery cross, 
or the song of the distraught Blanche that gives 
warning to Fitz James. 

The toils are pitch *d, and the stakes are set, 

Ever sing merrily, merrily; 
The bows they bend, and the knives they whet, 

Hunters live so cheerily. 



70 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

It was a stag, a stag of ten, 

Bearing his branches sturdily; 
He came stately down the glen, 

Ever sing hardily, hardily. 

It was there he met with a wounded doe, 

She was bleeding deathfully; 
She warned him of the toils below, 

Oh, so faithfully, faithfully! 

He had an eye and he could heed, 

Ever sing warily, warily; 
He had a foot, and he could speed, 

Hunters watch so narrowly. 

On this passage the egregious Jeffrey wrote — 

" No machinery can be conceived more clumsy 
for effecting the deliverance of a distressed hero, 
than the introduction of a mad woman, who, 
without knowing or caring about the wanderer, 
warns him, by a song, to take care of the ambush 
that was set for him. The maniacs of poetry have 
indeed had a prescriptive right to be musical, since 
the days of Ophelia downwards ; but it is rather a 
rash extension of this privilege to make them sing 
good sense, and to make sensible people be guided 
by them." 

Scott recked so lightly of this censure that he 
repeated the situation (his novels often repeat 
the situations of his poems), the warning lilts 



"LADY OF THE LAKE " 71 

of a brainsick girl, in The Heart of Midlothian^ 
in that most romantic passage where Madge 
Wildfire's snatches of song give warning to the 
fugitive lover of Effie Deans. These parallel- 
isms between the structure of the rhymed and 
of the anonymous prose romances are frequent 
and curious. 

The whole poem of The Lady of the Lake is 
inimitably vivacious, it has on it the dew of morn- 
ing in a mountain pass : the King is worthy of the 
praise of Scott's princes given to Byron by the 
Prince of Wales, who, with all his faults, could ap- 
preciate Walter Scott and Jane Austen. " I told 
the Prince," Byron wrote to Scott, " that I thought 
you more particularly the painter of Princes, as 
they never appeared more fascinating than in Mar- 
mion and The Lady of the Lake, He was pleased 
to coincide, and to dwell on the description of your 
James's as no less royal than poetical. He spoke 
alternately of Homer and yourself, and seemed 
well acquainted with both." A British king well 
acquainted with Homer is hardly the idiot of 
Thackeray's satire. 

Scott said in taking farewell of his work — 

Yet, once again, farewell, thou Minstrel Harp! 

Yet, once again, forgive my feeble sway, 
And little reck I of the censure sharp 

May idly cavil at an idle lay. 



j2 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Much have I owed thy strains on life's long way, 
Through secret woes the world has never known, 

When on the weary night dawn'd wearier day, 
And bitterer was the grief devour'd alone, 

That I o'erlive such woes, Enchantress! is thine own. 

He had shown more of his heart than he cared to 
show, and passed the confession off with a quota- 
tion from Master Stephen, who deemed melan- 
choly " a gentlemanly thing." 

Scott's gains from The Lady of the Lake must 
have been considerable, though of course not nearly 
so great as the profits of a modern dealer in fustian 
novels. A prudent poet would have regarded the 
money as capital, and Scott, as we said, did place 
at least £9,000 in his Ballantyne companies. But 
it appears that the money was no sooner in than 
the profits were taken out again for the private ex- 
penditure of the partners. 

It really seems that Scott often was deceived, or 
at least confused, as to the state of his commercial 
accounts. He used to write to John Ballantyne, 
his book-keeper, in the strain of an affectionate 
elder brother, imploring " dear John " to " have 
the courage to tell disagreeable truths to those 
whom you hold in regard," " not to shut your eyes 
or blind those of your friends upon the actual state 
of business." The advice was given in vain, says 
Lockhart, and he explains that Scott's own conduct 



" WAVERLEY " 73 

made his counsels of no avail. The Ballantynes 
could not inquire strictly into Scott's " uncommer- 
cial expenditure," because, while he was the only 
moneyed partner, they had " trespassed largely, 
for their own purposes, on the funds of the com- 
panies." The same reason, namely that the money 
was not theirs, made it impossible for them to check 
Scott's commercial expenditure on the publication 
of huge antiquarian volumes, exquisitely ill done 
by the many literary hangers-on for whom he 
wished to procure a livelihood. These piles of 
waste paper remained on the hands of his publish- 
ing company, which was also bearing the weight 
of that Old Man of the Sea, his Annual Register, 
irregularly published at a loss of £1,000 a year. 
Thus, although the excitements of the Peninsular 
and other wars did not prevent the public from buy- 
ing Scott's poetry largely, the Ballantyne companies 
went from one bank to another in search of accom- 
modation, while Scott lived as joyously as La Fon- 
taine's grasshopper, in the summer weather of his 
genius. 

In 1 8 10 he showed the fragment of Waverley 
to James Ballantyne, who looked on it without en- 
thusiasm. James was to Scott what the old house- 
keeper was to Moliere, a touchstone of public taste ; 
his remarks on the margins of Scott's proof-sheets 
show that he was rather below the level of general 



74 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

ignorance, and rather more morally sensitive than 
the common prude of the period. He could throw 
cold water on Waverley, but could not restrain 
Scott from publishing Dr. Jamieson's History of 
the Culdees, and Weber's egregious " Beaumont 
and Fletcher." Business looked so bad that in 
1 8 10 Scott entertained the notion of seeking a ju- 
dicial office in India. 

His next poem, Don Roderick — " this patriotic 
puppet show " he called it — he gave, since silver 
and gold he had none, as a subscription to the fund 
for ruined Portuguese. Scott, in Don Roderick, 
passed Sir John Moore over in silence, not because 
Moore was a Whig, but because Scott did not ap- 
preciate the much disputed strategy of that great 
soldier and good man. Neither Moore's glorious 
death, nor his stand at Corunna, expiated, in Scott's 
opinion, the disasters of his hurried retreat. It was 
at this time that his friend, Captain Fergusson, 
read The Lady of the Lake aloud, the sixth 
canto, to the men of his command, under artillery 
fire. 

A trifling piece, The Inferno of Altesidora, con- 
tained verses in the manner of Crabbe, Moore, and 
himself; these are excellent imitations, and, with a 
lyric, The Resolve, in the manner of the Caroline 
poets, justify the opinion that Scott would have 
been a formidable satirist had he chosen to attack 



ABBOTSFORD 75 

Byron and the Whigs in the manner and measure 
of Pope. 

As Scott had now a near prospect of a salary of 
£1,300 a year, for his hitherto unpaid labours as 
Clerk of Session, he yielded to the fatal temptation 
of purchasing a small estate on Tweedside. This 
purchase was really an antiquarian extravagance; 
he wished to add to his collection the field of the 
last great Border clan battle, fought in 1526 be- 
tween the clans of Scott and Ker, including the 
stone called Turn Again, where an Elliot checked 
the pursuit by spearing Ker of Cessford. The two 
farms which he bought were styled Cartley or 
Clarty Hole, and Kaeside, " a bare haugh and a 
bleak bank," said Scott, and there was an ugly 
little farmhouse at Clarty Hole, rechristened Ab- 
botsford, in memory of the monks of Melrose. It 
is not a good site, lying low, close to the existing 
public road, and the proprietor had not the charter 
for salmon fishing in the pools beneath his house. 
But the property was all " enchanted land," rich in 
legends and Border memories of Thomas of Ercil- 
doune and of battles, while Scott often cast longing 
eyes on the adjacent Faldonside, once the home of 
Andrew Ker, the most ruffianly of Riccio's murder- 
ers, and on the perfect little peel tower of Darnick. 
Washington Irving says that Scott spoke to him 
of a project of buying Smailholme Tower. Like 



y6 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

almost all Scots for many centuries, the Sheriff 
longed to be a landed man; his lease of Ashestiel 
was ended, and, above all, the land which he now 
purchased was rich in antiquarian interest. So he 
collected farms, began to rebuild the house of 
Clarty Hole, and entered on his private Moscow 
expedition, the Making of Abbotsford. The first 
farm purchased was dear at the £4,000 which was 
its price. Meanwhile, a source which, in our day, 
would have proved a mine of gold to Scott, was 
by him unworked. He would not dramatize his 
poems, or, later, his novels, for the stage, and every 
adventurer made prize of them. 

Early in 18 12 Scott began Rokeby, a poem on 
the home of his friend Morritt, and in May he 
" flitted " in a gipsy-like procession from Ashestiel 
to Abbotsford. But Childe Harold appeared 
before Rokeby; Scott disliked the popular misan- 
thropy of The Childe, but privately declared it to 
be " a poem of most extraordinary power, which 
may rank its author with our first poets." Scott 
burned the whole of his first draft of Rokeby 
(canto 1), because " I had corrected the spirit out 
of it." Meanwhile Scott and Byron became cor- 
respondents, in a tone, to quote Lockhart, " of 
friendly confidence equally honourable to both 
these great competitors, without rivalry, for the 
favour of the literary world." Of Rokeby, which 



" ROKEBY " 77 

appeared in the last days of 1812, Scott said that 
it was a " pseudo romance of pseudo chivalry," 
though he liked the beautiful lyrics interspersed 
through the poem, and rather piqued himself on 
the character of the outlaw Bertram, who has won 
the applause of Mr. Swinburne. The scene of 
Rokeby is English, and of the characters Lockhart 
says that, in a prose romance " they would have 
come forth with effect hardly inferior to any of all 
the groups Scott ever created.' , Scott told Miss 
Edgeworth that Matilda was drawn from " a lady 
who is now no more," his lost love, and that most 
of the other personages " are mere shadows." The 
poet never left much for his critics to say in the 
way of disapproval. 

The poem, enfin, was in no way a success. 
Mocking birds of song had wearied the public of 
Scott by endless imitation. 

Most can raise the flowers now, 

For all have got the seed, 
And now again the people 

Call it but a weed. 

Scott himself was imitating himself in The Bridal 
of Triermain, to " set a trap for Jeffrey," who was 
expected to take Erskine for the author. He was 
boyishly reckless of his reputation; he easily re- 
signed the lists when Byron " beat him," as he says, 



78 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

and in the year 1813 was harassed by " the ignoble 
melancholy of pecuniary embarrassment." 

A crisis had come in the affairs of Ballantyne 
& Co. The interest, for us, lies in the light which 
the crisis throws on the character of Scott. We 
have seen that a friend wrote, at the time of his 
disappointment in love, about Scott's " violent " 
and " ungovernable " character, while Scott him- 
self refers to " the family temper " as rather vol- 
canic. The late Mr. W. B. Scott, too, considered 
it worth while to tell the world in his Memoirs, 
that, as a boy, he once heard Scott swear profane 
in a printer's office. The truth of the matter seems 
to be that Scott had a large share of the family 
temper in boyhood, when he suffered from serious 
illnesses, and that he was capable of relapses in his 
overworn later years. But in the full health and 
vigour of his manhood, he mastered his temper 
admirably. 

He was at Abbotsford, at Drumlanrig with the 
Duke of Buccleuch, and at other country houses 
remote from Edinburgh, in the July and August of 
1 8 13. He was disturbed by frequent letters from 
John Ballantyne, always at the very last moment 
demanding money to save the existence of the firm, 
and always concealing the exact state of financial 
affairs. John was like the proverbial spendthrift 



BALLANTYNE TROUBLES 79 

who never can be induced to give his benevolent 
kinsfolk a full schedule of his debts. Thus har- 
assed and menaced with ruin, Scott wrote letters 
which are models of tact and temper. He only 
asked to be told " in plain and distinct terms " how 
affairs really stood, and to be told in good time. 
But John was as unpunctual and untrustworthy as 
Scott was punctual and placable. He would not 
write explicitly, he always sent unexpected de- 
mands, and it was only certain that he was keeping 
others back. Scott had not an hour of peace and 
safety, and he told Ballantyne as much, " in charity 
with your dilatory worship." " Were it not for 
your strange concealments, 1 should anticipate no 
difficulty in winding up these matters." Lockhart 
says that he would as soon have hanged his favour- 
ite dog as turned John Ballantyne adrift. The 
conclusion of the matter was that the Ballantyne 
publishing company found a haven in the capacious 
bosom of Constable, who believed in the Star of 
Scott, advanced some £4,000, and took off the 
sinking ship the useless burden of the valueless 
books. 

On the whole Scott could be patient, he knew 
that his copyrights and library were valuable 
enough to secure all his creditors from ultimate 
loss. But to avoid loss by the hurried sale of copy- 



80 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

rights, he obtained a guarantee for £4,000 from 
his friend and chief, the Duke of Buccleuch, 
backed, it seems, by Messrs. Longman. At the 
same time he declined an offer of the Poet Laure- 
ateship — vacant by the death of Pye — from the 
Prince Regent. He supposed that the Laureate- 
ship was worth three or four hundred pounds an- 
nually, a mistake. But as he held two other offices, 
the Clerkship and Sheriffship, he deemed it wrong 
to take the money, and secured the office for 
Southey, who lived solely by his pen. Another 
motive, felt by Scott and urged by the Duke of Buc- 
cleuch, was the ridicule which then was attached to 
the bays, and the necessity of writing a Birthday 
Ode every year. The Regent removed that obso- 
lete necessity, and Southey, despite one famous 
error, redeemed the honour of the laurels, next 
held by Wordsworth, and then by Tennyson. " Sir 
Walter's conduct," Southey said, " was, as it always 
was, characteristically generous, and in the highest 
degree friendly." 

Thus in temper, in generosity, and in determina- 
tion that no man should be a loser by him, we see 
Scott at his best, while in the sanguine hopefulness 
which led him to go on buying land, books, and 
old armour, during the crisis, we mark the cause 
of his final misfortunes ; and, in his ceaseless indus- 



LAUREATESHIP 81 

try during these distractions, we note the cour- 
ageous perseverance by which he saved his honour 
at the expense of his life. Through his financial 
troubles he worked doggedly at his Edition and 
Life of Swift, and began The Lord of the Isles, 
though already he was the butt of every bore, and 
the host of tedious uninvited guests, " the thieves 
of time." Simultaneously, he was assisting Mat- 
urin and other literary strugglers with money, his 
constant practice. But he did cause the Income 
Tax collectors to " abandon their claim upon the 
produce of literary labour.' ' Lockhart chronicles 
this fact " in case such a demand should ever be 
renewed hereafter! " 

It is renewed, of course, and with perfect justice. 
What Scott resisted was double taxation of literary 
earnings, first under the property tax, next, yearly, 
under the Income Tax. He must not first be taxed 
on the full price, say, of Marmion, as income, and 
then again yearly on the interest of the price. 1 

In July 1 8 14 the Edition and Life of Swift ap- 
peared in nineteen volumes, six years after this 
laborious work was begun. The Life, which be- 
came popular, is perhaps, with that by Sir Henry 
Craik, the most generous and sympathetic attempt 

1 Thus, at least, I understand the point. Cf. Lockhart iv. 
pp. 142-144. 



82 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

to make intelligible one of the greatest, most mis- 
erable, and most mysterious of mankind. Scott 
made more allowance than Thackeray for what 
Lockhart calls " the faults and foibles of nameless 
and inscrutable disease." 



CHAPTER IV 

THE WAVERLET NOVELS 

It must probably have been in 1813 that Scott, 
hunting for some fishing tackle in an old bureau, 
found both the flies (they were red palmers tied 
on several strands of grey horse hairs), and also 
the manuscript of the first chapters of Waverley, 
begun in 1805 and reconsidered in 18 10. The 
novel was advertised in The Scots Magazine of 
February, as to appear in March. But, very char- 
acteristically, Scott now dropped the novel, and 
gave the spring months to composing the essays 
on " Chivalry " and " Romance " for Constable's 
new purchase, The Encyclopaedia Britannica. 
Then, in June 18 14, Lockhart, at a dinner party 
of young men in George Street, saw through a win- 
dow of North Castle Street the writing hand 
" that never stops — page after page is finished and 
thrown on that heap of MSS. ; and still it goes on 
unwearied, and so it will be till candles are brought 
in, and God knows how long after that ... I 
well know what hand that is — 'tis Walter Scott's," 
said Lockhart's host. 

83 



84 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Thus, in three summer weeks, Scott wrote the 
two last volumes of Waverley, the anonymous ro- 
mance that began a literary revolution. Novels, 
of course, were written always, since the days of 
Richardson and Fielding and Miss Burney. But 
Miss Burney had long been silent : Mrs. Radcliffe 
had ceased to terrify and amaze, and Miss Edge- 
worth, in Lockhart's opinion, " had never realized 
a tithe of £700 by the best of her Irish tales," 
which Scott regarded as one source of his inspira- 
tion. Novels were in 18 14 abandoned, said Mor- 
ritt, to the Lydia Languishes and their maids ; they 
were disdained by the then relatively serious mem- 
bers of the reading public who " formed libraries." 
fVaverley came with its successors and with the 
swarm of imitations, and libraries were formed no 
more. The public, indeed, still bought the poetry 
of Byron with enthusiasm, but Shelley and Keats 
they rejected. I doubt if there was a first edition 
of Christabel, and the reign of novels and nothing 
but novels began. There were interruptions to this 
despotism when Tennyson was in his golden prime, 
and when Macaulay and Froude wrote history, but 
to-day the Novel is supreme, and — the novels are 
not Waverley novels. 

It was Scott, the greatest of readers, who in- 
augurated the reign of novel-reading, and very 
much chagrined he would be could he see the actual 



YACHTING TOUR 85 

results: the absolute horror with which mankind 
shun every other study. It could never have oc- 
curred to Scott, that, within less than a hundred 
years, male and female novelists, often as igno- 
rant of books as of life, would monopolize the gen- 
eral attention, and would give themselves out as 
authorities on politics, philosophy, ethics, society, 
theology, religion, and Homeric criticism. Scott's 
own tales never usurped the office of the pulpit, the 
platform, or the Press; and, if he did teach some 
readers all the history that they knew, he con- 
stantly warned them that, in his romances, he was 
an historian with a very large poetical licence. 

No sooner had Scott read the proof-sheets of 
Waverley than he sailed from Leith (July 28, 
1 8 14) with a festal crew of friends, including 
Erskine, on board the Lighthouse yacht. The 
Surveyor, Viceroy of the jolly Commissioners of 
Lighthouses, was the ancestor of Mr. Robert 
Louis Stevenson, " a most gentlemanlike and mod- 
est man and well-known for his scientific skill," 
writes Scott in his Diary. That he kept a very 
copious diary on a pleasure voyage is an example 
of his indomitable habit of writing, unfatigued by 
the production of two volumes of a novel in three 
weeks. He visited the ruined abbey of Arbroath, 
once held by Cardinal Beaton, " for the third time, 
the first being — eheu! " On the first visit he had 



86 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

been in the company of his un forgotten love : to be 
absent from her, and divided from her by the river 
of death, was not to be out of mind of her. He 
studied the strange ways of the Shetland and Ork- 
ney islanders — we see the results in The Pirate ; he 
examined the extraordinary towers of the fourth 
to ninth centuries a.d. called Brocks ; he took notes 
of a superstitious practice which strongly resem- 
bles an usage of the natives of Central Australia : 
he heard of the great sea serpent's recent visit to 
the coast, and he was presented with a collection 
of neolithic axe heads. He met a witch of great 
age who sold, as iEolus in the Odyssey gave, fa- 
vourable breezes to seamen. He visited many isl- 
and scenes of the distresses of Prince Charles, in 
1746, and at Dunvegan saw the Fairy Flag of 
M'Leod, and heard M'Crimmon's Lament played 
by a descendant of the M'Crimmon who was the 
only man slain in the rout of the M'Leods at Moy. 
He beheld Loch Coruisk — admirably described in 
The Lord of the Isles — and the ruins of Ard- 
tornish Castle, in which occurs the opening scene 
of that poem. On September 4, he was saddened 
by news of the death of one of his dearest friends, 
the Duchess of Buccleuch, and, on September 8, 
left the yacht for Glasgow. 

In Edinburgh, on his way to Abbotsford, Scott 
found Constable about to publish the third edition 



" WAVERLEY " 87 

of Waverley — three thousand copies, at a guinea, 
had already been disposed of, or were in the way 
of disappearing. This was at that time an unex- 
ampled success for a new and anonymous novel, un- 
backed by the favouring breezes of the modern 
puff preliminary. The book, uncut and in three 
grey-clad volumes, is now esteemed at a very high 
rate by bibliomaniacs. In most cases, purchasers 
had the novels " murderously half-bound in calf," 
and much cut down; and, of Waverley in particu- 
lar, copies of the first edition are seldom found in 
the original state. Constable had refused to give 
£1,000 for the whole copyright, and rather rue- 
fully divided the large profits with the author. 

At first only three people were in Scott's confi- 
dence as to the authorship of Waverley : they were 
Ballantyne, Erskine and Morritt. Gradually, as 
the novels flowed on and on, about twenty persons 
were entrusted with the secret, which could be no 
real secret to any one of sense who had read the 
poems and the notes to the poems. As for Scott's 
intimates, they recognized him in dozens of details 
and traces. But the public, not unnaturally, wished 
to believe that they had a new entertainer. Thomas 
Scott, Jeffrey (of all people !) , Erskine, and a cler- 
gyman who lay under a very black cloud, were 
among the persons suspected of the authorship. 

It was vain to say that only Scott knew so much 



88 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

of Highlands and Lowlands as the author knew: 
that no other man had his acquaintance with the 
personal side of old history, that no other could 
have written the snatches of verse in the romances. 
People enjoy a mystery, and Scott enjoyed mysti- 
fying them, while his conscience permitted him a 
latitude in denial warranted by the maxims of 
Father Holt, S.J., in Esmond. As a loyal citizen 
might blamelessly say that King Charles was not 
in the oak tree — His Majesty being private there, 
and invisible to loyal eyes — so Scott, if pressed, 
averred that he had no hand in the novels, often 
adding that, even if he had, he would still deny his 
authorship. 

Casuists may blame or exonerate him ( Cardinal 
Newman discussed the situation) : it is certain that 
no man is bound to incriminate himself. 

Jeffrey detected Scott, of course, and reviewed 
him with the usual grotesque assumption of supe- 
riority. O le grand homme, rien ne lui peut plaire! 
The Quarterly dullard probably did not recognize 
Scott's hand, and spoke of the Scots tongue as " a 
dark dialogue " (so in Lockhart!) " of Anglified 
Erse," a deathless exhibition of stupid ignorance. 

The general characteristics, the merits and de- 
fects of the Waverley novels may be reviewed, 
before we approach the history of each example in 
its turn. In an age when an acquaintance with Fitz- 



THE NOVELS 89 

Gerald's Riibdiyat of Omar Khayyam, an exhaust- 
ive ignorance of all literature of the past, and an 
especial contempt for Scott, whom FitzGerald so 
intensely admired, are the equipment of many crit- 
ics, we must be very cautious in praising the Wa- 
verley novels. They are not the work of a passion- 
ate, a squalid, or a totally uneducated genius. They 
are not the work of any Peeping Tom who studies 
woman in her dressing-room, and tries to spy or 
smell out the secrets of the eternally feminine. We 
have novels to-day — novels by males — full of 
clever spyings and dissections of womankind, which 
Scott would have thrown into the fire. " I think," 
writes Mr. Hutton, " that the deficiency of his pict- 
ures of women . . . should be greatly attributed 
to his natural chivalry. . . . He hardly ventured, 
as it were, in his tenderness for them, to look 
deeply into their little weaknesses and intricacies of 
character." 

Scott's novels, again, are not the work of a man 
who desires to enforce his social, or religious, or 
political ideals and ideas in his romances. Like 
almost all great novels, except Tom Jones, they do 
not possess carefully elaborated plots, any more 
than do most of the dramas of Shakespeare. They 
are far from being the work of a conscientious 
stylist, beating his brains for hours to find le mot 
propre, usually the least natural word for any mor- 



9 o SIR WALTER SCOTT 

tal to use in the circumstances. But once Scott did 
hunt for le mot propre, in Scots. He could not find 
it, and came out to the lawn at Abbotsford where 
some workmen were engaged. He turned a bucket 
upside down, and asked the men, " What did I do 
just now? " " Ye whummled the bowie," said the 
men, and Scott had found the word he wanted — to 
" whummle." Mr. Saintsbury has a little excursus 
on this word, " whummle," or " whammle," which 
Scott, he has heard, picked up from a woman in the 
street. But every Scot knows it, for to " whummle 
the bannock/' in the presence of a Menteith, was a 
proverbial insult, as Menteith, or one of his men, 
is said, by whummling the loaf, to have given the 
signal of betrayal, when English soldiers lay in 
wait before seizing Sir William Wallace. 

Far from being a conscientious stylist, Scott not 
infrequently proves the truth of his own remark to 
Lockhart, that he never learned grammar. I have 
found five " whiches " in a sentence of his, and five 
" ques " in a sentence by Alexandre Dumas, his 
pupil and rival. Dumas had more of the humour 
of Scott than Scott had of the wit of Dumas. 
Many parts of his tales are prolix: his openings, as 
a rule, are dull. His heroes and heroines often 
speak in the stilted manner of Miss Burney's Lord 
Orville, a manner (if we may trust memoirs and 
books like Boswell's Johnson, and Walpole's Let- 



THE NOVELS 91 

ters) , in which no men and women of mould ever 
did talk, even in the eighteenth century. But 
Catherine Glover, in The Fair Maid of Perth, usu- 
ally speaks from stilts. These pompous discourses 
in which the speaker often talks of himself in the 
third person, were in vogue, in novel writing, we 
do not know why, and they are a stone of stum- 
bling to readers who do not blench when a modern 
hero mouths fustian in the tone of a demoniac at 
large. All these unfashionable traits are to be 
found up and down the Waverley novels, combined 
with descriptive passages that, to some, are a weari- 
ness. These are frank confessions from a zealot 
who has read most of the Waverley novels many 
times, from childhood up to age, and finds them 
better, finds fresh beauties in them, every time that 
he reads them. But there are more serious defects 
than old-fashionedness, and prolixities (which may 
be skipped) , and laxity of style, and errors in gram- 
mar. There are faults in " artistry/' and nobody 
knew them better, or put his finger on them more 
ruthlessly, or apologized for them more ingenu- 
ously than Scott himself. 

The Introductions to the Novels have fright- 
ened away many a painful would-be student who 
has been told that, if you read a book, you must 
read every line of it — from cover to cover. This 
is an old moral maxim invented and handed on by 



92 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

the class of mortals who are not born readers, and 
regard literature with moral earnestness as a duty, 
though a painful duty. There must be no flinch- 
ing! Scott, like Dr. Johnson, " tore the heart out 
of a book," rapidly assimilating what he needed, 
and " skipping " what he did not need. He wrote 
his Introductions for the curious literary student, 
not for the novel reader and the general public. 
Doubtless he expected the general public to skip 
the Introductions, and did not reflect that they 
would trouble persons who adhere to the puritanic 
rule against what they call " desultory reading." 
But whosoever has any interest in Scott's own the- 
ory of the conduct of the historical novel, and in 
his confession of his own faults, cannot afford to 
overlook the original Introduction of 1822 to The 
Fortunes of Nigel. In these pages Captain Clut- 
terbuck describes an interview with " The Eidolon, 
or representative vision of The Author of W over- 
ley" Scott, in fact, anticipates the modern " inter- 
view," but he interviews himself, and does the busi- 
ness better than the suave modern reporter. After 
confessing that The Monastery, especially the 
White Lady of Avenel, is rather a failure, Scott is 
asked by Captain Clutterbuck whether his new 
book meets every single demand of the critics, 
whether it opens strikingly, proceeds naturally, and 
ends happily, for critics then applauded what they 



THE NOVELS 93 

now denounce — " a happy ending." Scott replies 
that Hercules might produce a romance " which 
should glide, and gush, and never pause, and widen, 
and deepen, and all the rest on't," but that he can- 
not. " There never was a novel written on this 
plan while the world stood." " Pardon me — Tom 
Jones" says the Captain. There was also the 
Odyssey, on which Wolf, the great sceptic as to the 
unity of the Iliad, bestowed the praise of masterly 
composition which the Captain gives to Tom Jones. 
But several modern German critics and Father 
Browne of the Society of Jesus, assure us that the 
plot of the Odyssey is a very bad piece of composi- 
tion, a dawdling bit of patchwork by many hands, 
in many ages, strung together by a relatively late 
Greek " botcher," though why he took the trouble 
nobody can imagine. Thus do critical opinions 
differ, and a fair critic informs me that " Tom 
Jones is the stupidest book in the English lan- 
guage." Yet, if the Odyssey triumphed over the 
Zoili of three thousand years, while Tom Jones 
was an undisputed masterpiece for a century and a 
half, we may doubt whether the verdict of time 
and of the world is to be upset for ever by the cen- 
sures of a few moderns. To them, and to the 
contemners of Scott, we may say, as Cromwell said 
to the Commissioners of the General Assembly, 
" Brethren, in the bowels of Christ, believe that it 



94 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

is possible you may be mistaken." Scott remarks 
that, in Fielding's masterpiece, the Novel, for ex- 
cellence of composition, " challenged a comparison 
with the Epic." Other "great masters," like Smol- 
lett and Le Sage, " have been satisfied if they 
amuse the reader on the road." It is enough for 
himself if his " scenes, unlaboured and loosely put 
together, have sufficient interest in them to amuse 
in one corner the pain of the body; in another to 
relieve anxiety of mind; in a third place to un- 
wrinkle a brow bent with the furrows of daily toil ; 
in another to fill the place of bad thoughts, or to 
suggest better; in yet another to induce an idler 
to study the history of his country ; in all . . . to 
furnish harmless amusement." 

Such is Scott's reply, in anticipation, to the cen- 
sure of Carlyle, that he has not a message, and a 
mission, and so forth. His mission was to add 
enormously to human happiness: his message was 
that of honour, courage, endurance, love, and 
kindness. The Captain, however, doubts not that 
the new book needs an apology, and that the story 
" is hastily huddled up," — a favourite criticism of 
Scott's friend, Lady Louisa Steuart. Scott might 
have replied that his romances are not so hastily 
" huddled up " at the close as many of Shake- 
speare's plays. 

But it is curious that Hogg represents Scott as 



THE NOVELS 9S 

criticising his tales exactly as Captain Clutterbuck 
and Lady Louisa censured Scott's own romances. 

" Well, Mr. Hogg, I have read over your 
proofs with a great deal of pleasure, and, I con- 
fess, with some little portion of dread. In the first 
place, the meeting of the two princesses at Castle 
Weiry is excellent. I have not seen any modern 
thing more truly dramatic. The characters are 
strongly marked, old Peter Chisholme's in particu- 
lar. Ah ! man, what you might have made of that 
with a little more refinement, care, and patience! 
But it is always the same with you, just hurrying on 
from one vagary to another, without consistency 
or proper arrangement." 

" Dear Mr. Scott, a man canna do the thing that 
he canna do." 

" Yes, but you can do it. Witness your poems, 
where the arrangements are all perfect and com- 
plete ; but in your prose works, with the exception 
of a few short tales, you seem to write merely by 
random, without once considering what you are 
going to write about." 

" You are not often wrong, Mr. Scott, and you 
were never righter in your life than you are now, 
for when I write the first line of a tale or novel, I 
know not what the second is to be, and it is the 
same way in every sentence throughout. When 
my tale is traditionary, the work is easy, as I then 



96 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

see my way before me, though the tradition be ever 
so short, but in all my prose works of imagination, 
knowing little of the world, I sail on without star 
or compass." 

In the conversation with the Captain, Scott pres- 
ently shows that, as regards composition, the Sher- 
iff and the Shepherd sailed in the same rudderless 
boat. " You should take time at least to arrange 
your story," says the Captain. Scott replies, as 
Hogg replied to himself, that " A man canna do 
what he canna do." 

" That is a sore point with me, my son. Believe 
me, I have not been fool enough to neglect ordi- 
nary precautions. I have repeatedly laid down 
my future work to scale, divided it into volumes 
and chapters, and endeavoured to construct a story 
which I meant would evolve itself gradually and 
strikingly, maintain suspense, and stimulate curi- 
osity; and which, finally, should terminate in a 
striking catastrophe. But I think there is a demon 
who seats himself on the feather of my pen when 
I begin to write, and leads it astray from the pur- 
pose. Characters expand under my hand; incidents 
are multiplied; the story lingers, while the mate- 
rials increase; my regular mansion turns out a 
Gothic anomaly, and the work is closed long before 
I have attained the point I proposed. 



THE NOVELS 97 

" Captain. — Resolution and determined for- 
bearance might remedy that evil. 

"Author. — Alas ! my dear sir, you do not know 
the force of paternal affection. When I light on 
such a character as Bailie Jarvie, or Dalgetty, my 
imagination brightens, and my conception becomes 
clearer at every step which I take in his company, 
although it leads me many a weary mile away from 
the regular road, and forces me to leap hedge and 
ditch to get back into the route again. If I resist 
the temptation, as you advise me, my thoughts be- 
come prosy, flat, and dull; I write painfully to 
myself, and under a consciousness of flagging which 
makes me flag still more; the sunshine with which 
fancy had invested the incidents, departs from 
them, and leaves every thing dull and gloomy. I 
am no more the same author I was in my better 
mood, than the dog in a wheel, condemned to go 
round and round for hours, is like the same dog 
merrily chasing his own tail, and gambolling in 
all the frolic of unrestrained freedom. In short, 
sir, on such occasions, I think I am bewitched." 

Scott next professes that he cannot write plays, 
as the Captain urges him to do, if he would. The 
applauded scraps of " Old Play " which head many 
of his chapters, are borrowed from manuscript 
dramas about which he tells a fable. As to the 
charge of making money — 



98 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

0, if it were a mean thing, 
The Gentles would not use it; 

And if it were ungodly. 
The clergy would refuse it. 

Moreover, " No man of honour, genius, or spirit, 
would make the mere love of gain, the chief, far 
less the only, purpose of his labours. For myself, 
I am not displeased to find the game a winning one ; 
yet while I pleased the public, I should probably 
continue it merely for the pleasure of playing; for 
I have felt as strongly as most folks that love of 
composition, which is perhaps the strongest of all 
instincts, driving the author to the pen, the painter 
to the palette, often without either the chance of 
fame or the prospect of reward. Perhaps I have 
said too much of this." 

Such is Scott's confession and apology. To plan 
a work to scale, to pursue a predetermined course, 
does not " set his genius/' as Alan Breck says. 
Nor did it set the genius of an artist so conscien- 
tious as Alan's creator, Mr. Stevenson. The pre- 
arranged programme or scenario of his Kidnapped, 
was very unlike the actual romance as it stands. 
The preeminent merit of Scott was that of a creator 
of characters. These personages became living, 
and, because they were living, spontaneous and un- 
controllable. What began as a " Legend of Mont- 



THE NOVELS 99 

rose," left the great Marquis in the background, 
and became the Odyssey of Thackeray's favourite, 
Dugald Dalgetty, " of Drumthwacket that should 
be," that inimitable and immortal man of the 
sword. So it is throughout the Waverley novels. 
The characters will " gang their ain gait." They 
come across the author's fancy, as Mrs. Gamp, who 
had no part in the original plan of Martin Chuz- 
zlewity came across the fancy of Dickens, and they 
work their will on plot and author. In fact, the 
almost mechanical merit of construction or char- 
pentage is rarely found in the great novels of the 
great masters. Vanity Fair " has no outline," as 
Mr. Mantalini says of the lady of rank, and, if 
Pendennis " has an outline, it is a demned outline." 
Of Esmond the motto may hold good — 

Servetur ad imum 
Qualis ah incepto processerit, et sihi constet. / 

But this merit, from the days of Cervantes down- 
wards, has been the least sought after by the great- 
est novelists. Scott tells us that at night he would 
leave off writing without an idea as to how he was 
to get his characters out of a quandary, and that, in 
the half-hour after waking, all would become clear 
to him. Charlotte Bronte makes a similar confes- 
sion. In his manuscript, Scott never goes back to 



ioo SIR WALTER SCOTT 

delete and alter — better would it have been had he 
taken the trouble. But his proof-sheets show that 
he took a good deal of pains in adding and improv- 
ing, especially in that impeccable little chef 
tfoeuvre, " Wandering Willie's Tale " in Red- 
gauntlet. We are thus obliged to confess that he 
was on occasion culpably indolent. Mr. Stevenson 
cites a romantic passage of Guy Mannering in 
which Scott, rather than go back and indicate, in 
an earlier passage, the presence of a fountain 
which he suddenly finds that he needs, hurries for- 
ward and drags the fountain into a long, trailing, 
shapeless sentence. Guy Mannering, we know, 
was " written in six weeks at Christmas," for the 
purpose of " refreshing the machine." Unde- 
niably it would be better, good as it is, had a fort- 
night been given to revision. 

Scott's " architectonic," his principles in the 
composition of historical novels, are well known, 
and the method was all his own. Others before 
him had attempted the historical novel, but wholly 
without his knowledge of history, and of the actual 
way of living and thinking in various periods of the 
past. He first made the dry bones of history live, 
and Macaulay and Froude follow his method, per- 
haps rather too closely. Several of Mr. Froude's 
most dramatic scenes never, as a matter of fact, 
occurred. It is probable that a too hasty glance at 



THE NOVELS 101 

notes from original documents misled him, and his 
dramatic instinct did the rest, without a backward 
look at the original papers, a look which would 
have made re-writing necessary — and caused the 
dramatic situation to disappear ! Scott, of course, 
wrote novels under no historical trammels of accu- 
racy. He deliberately committed the most glaring 
anachronisms, bringing the dead Amy Robsart to 
life long after her mysterious death, introducing 
Shakespeare as a successful dramatist at an age 
when he was creeping unwillingly to school — and 
then Scott would confess his anachronisms in a 
note. Modern historical novelists, though they 
write from the results of " cram," and not from 
a mind already charged with history, try at least 
to subject themselves to the actual circumstances of 
the past, and not to subject historical circumstances 
to themselves. They dare not bring Charles II 
to Woodstock, in his flight after Worcester, because 
it is too well known that the King did not make by 
way of Woodstock for the south coast. On such 
points of composition, Scott was as reckless as 
Turner was in landscape ; both were satisfied, as the 
reader usually is, if they got their effects. Mr. 
Swinburne, in his drama of Mary Stuart, is not 
more nice. Lady Boyne (Mary Beaton) was 
never near Mary Stuart in England, though a play 
turns on her presence there. 



ioa SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Scott's plan was never to make a famous char- 
acter of history the central personage of his tale. 
Thus he never could have written a novel of which 
the fortunes of Mary Stuart were the central in- 
terest. He deemed that the facts were too well 
known to be trifled with, and that, in such matters, 
romance could not cope with actuality. Thus the 
unhappy Queen appears as a subordinate character 
— not as heroine, that is to say — while, in the scene 
in which the night of Darnley's murder is recalled 
to her memory, she reaches the height of tragedy. 
These two principles, not to make the protagonists 
of history his central characters; not to cope with 
the records of actual events, are the guiding, if 
negative principles of Scott. He invents heroes 
and heroines who never existed, nor could have ex- 
isted. There could be no Henry Morton in 1679 ! 
He uses them mainly as pivots round which the 
characters revolve. The heroes and heroines them- 
selves, as a rule, interest their creator, and his 
readers, but little. What can you make of a jeune 
premier? He must be brave, modest, handsome, 
good, and not too clever — an ideal son-in-law, and 
he must be a true lover. Scott pronounced his ear- 
liest hero, Edward Waverley, " a sneaking piece of 
imbecility. ... I am a bad hand at depicting a 
hero properly so-called." True, but what kind of 
hero is Martin Chuzzlewit, or Clive Newcome, 



THE NOVELS 103 

and is there any hero at all in Vanity Fair? Tom 
Jones and Captain Booth take leading parts, but 
are nothing less than heroic. They are characters, 
however, and Scott's heroes, except Quentin Dur- 
ward, Roland Graeme, Harry Gow, and the Mas- 
ter of Ravenswood (un beau tenebreux), are not 
of much account as characters. 

Unlike Thackeray, Dickens, and possibly Field- 
ing, Scott never drew his hero from himself. In 
politics they are usually what he was — when he 
wrote history — they take the middle path, they are 
in the sober juste milieu. Waverley is only a Jaco- 
bite to please his lady; Henry Morton is an ex- 
tremely moderate constitutional Whig. Nobody 
can take much interest in Vanbeest Brown, the 
wandering heir of Guy Mannering, despite his pro- 
ficiency on the flageolet. When we have a true 
hero like Montrose, we are scarcely allowed to look 
©n his face and hear his voice. Ivanhoe, like an 
honourable gentleman, curbs his passion for Re- 
becca, and is true to Rowena, though we see that 
the memory of Rebecca never leaves his heart. 
Ivanhoe behaves as, in his circumstances, Scott 
would have behaved, in place of giving way to pas- 
sion. Novels of the most poignant interest are con- 
stantly beginning, in private life, and then break 
off, because the living characters are persons of 
honour and self-control. Ivanhoe would have been 



LilftTM—^^-T-- "*— -*-— — - 



io4 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

more to the taste of to-day, if the hero had eloped 
with the fair Hebrew — but then, Ivanhoe and 
Rowena are persons of honour and self-control. I 
found, in Scott's papers, a letter from an enthusi- 
astic schoolboy, a stranger — " Oh, Sir Walter, how 
could you kill the gallant cavalier, and give the 
lady to the crop-eared Whig? " This was the re- 
mark of the natural man. Scott kept the natural 
man in subjection. The heroes, except when they 
are " bonny fechters " like Harry Gow, Roland 
Graeme, and Quentin Durward — that canny sol- 
dier of fortune — are little more than parts of the 
machinery, and modes of introducing the pell-mell 
of nominally subordinate, but really essential char- 
acters of all ranks and degrees — the undying 
friends with whom Scott brings us acquainted. 

The heroines, though it seems a paradox to say 
so, are really more successful than the heroes. In 
The Heart of Midlothian there is no hero except 
the heroine, Jeanie Deans, certainly one of the 
great creations of literature. Scott has made good- 
ness without beauty, without overmastering trag- 
edy, without " wallowing naked in the pathetic," 
and without passion, as interesting as Becky 
Sharp. Who has rivalled this feat? Rose Brad- 
wardine, with her innocent self-betrayed affection, 
is an elder sister of Catherine Morland in North- 
anger Abbey. Though rather stilted, in the man- 



THE NOVELS 105 

ner of the period, Rebecca is a noble creature. 
Catherine Seyton, of The Abbot, is a delightfully 
spirited girl, and Diana Vernon is peerless. Our 
hearts warm even to the prematurely puritan Fair 
Maid of Perth, when she runs, with loose hair, like 
a wild creature, to her lover's door, on the false 
news of his death. Fair eyes were wont to weep 
over Lucy Ashton, the Ophelia of Scott; but now 
Lucy is out of fashion though her end, surely, is 
poignant enough, when the weak mind is broken, 
and the animal stands at bay, like a wild cat, and 
breaks the hunter's toils, and dies a maiden in the 
bridal chamber. 

As Moliere never had the heart to draw a jeal- 
ous woman, among all his pictures of men who 
knew, like himself, the torments of jealousy, so 
Scott never had the heart to draw a young and 
beautiful woman who is wicked. This ancient fa- 
miliar source of poignant interest he passes by, out 
of his great chivalry. There was nothing to pre- 
vent him from writing a romance on the passion- 
ate, wretched tale of the once beautiful Ulrica, in 
Ivanhoe, a fair traitress driven on the winds of re- 
venge, treachery, parricide, and incest. Here was 
a theme for a " realistic " novel of England after 
the Conquest, but Scott sketches it lightly, as a 
Thyestean horror in the background. In his work 



106 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

such a piece of " realism " stands alone, like the 
story of Phoenix in Homer's work (in the Ninth 
Book of the Iliad). Both artists, Scott and 
Homer, had a sense of reverence of human things : 
they did not lack the imagination necessary for the 
portrayal of the evil and terrible, but they did not 
seek success in that popular region. Scott was no 
prude, but he held the young in reverence, knowing 
that among them he must have many readers. 

I am unable to think the worse of him because he 
imposed on himself limitations which Byron tri- 
umphantly broke through, though Scott's limits 
now militate against a high appreciation of his 
work by the admirers of M. Guy de Maupassant 
and M. Catulle Mendes. " A man canna do what 
he canna do," and Scott could not have treated the 
favourite themes of these masters, if he would. 
He had funds enough to draw upon in human life 
and character, without hunting for personages and 
situations in dark malodorous corners. The glory 
of his work is, of course, not merely his wealth of 
incident, and his natural gift of story telling, but 
his crowd of characters, from his princes, such as 
James VI, an immortal picture, Louis XI, Eliza- 
beth, Mary, Charles II in flight or in such pros- 
perity as he loved, to his Highland chiefs, his 
ploughmen, his lairds, Bucklaw and old Redgaunt- 
let, the persecutor; his copper captains in Alsatia, 



THE NOVELS 107 

his baillies, his Covenanting preachers, his Claver- 
house, his serving men, his Andrew Fairservice, his 
yeomen, his Dandie Dinmont, with the Dinmont 
family and terriers, his wild women, Meg Merri- 
lees, and Madge Wildfire ; his smugglers, his law- 
yers, from Pleydell to the elder Fairford, and even 
his bores, who, like Miss Austen's bores, are cer- 
tainly too much with us, who can number the 
throng of such characters, all living and delight- 
ful ? The novels are vecus : the author has, in im- 
agination, lived closely and long with his people, 
whether of his own day, or of the past, before he 
laid brush to canvas to execute their portraits. It 
is in this capacity, as a creator of a vast throng 
of living people of every grade, and every variety 
of nature, humour, and temperament, that Scott, 
among British writers, is least remote from Shake- 
speare. No changes in taste and fashion as regards 
matters unessential, no laxities and indolence of 
his own, no feather-headed folly, or leaden stu- 
pidity of new generations can deprive Scott of these 
unfading laurels. The novels that charmed Eu- 
rope and America, that were the inspiration of 
Dumas, that have been affectionately discussed by 
the greatest of modern British statesmen, were as 
conspicuously open to criticism, and were as se- 
verely handled by reviewers, in Scott's own day as 
in our own. But, if we may judge by endless new 



108 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

editions of all sorts, and at various prices, the 
Waverley novels are not less popular now, than are, 
for their little span, the most successful flights of 
all-daring ignorance and bombastic presumption. 
It was on his characters, especially on his characters 
sketched among his own people, that Scott believed 
the interest of his romances to depend. He gen- 
erously recognized Miss Edgeworth as his teacher: 
" If I could but hit Miss Edgeworth's wonderful 
power of vivifying all her persons, and making 
them live as beings in your mind, I should not 
despair," he said. 

Meanwhile, outside of " the big bow wow " line, 
he regarded Miss Austen as his superior, nor was 
he wrong; that queen of fiction has come to her 
own again. In his brief, and on the whole admi- 
rable, Scott, the late Mr. Hutton defended Scott's 
power of character-drawing better than I can hope 
to do, if it needs defence, against Mr. Carlyle, who 
had some slight private bitterness against Sir Wal- 
ter, on a matter of an unanswered letter. He calls 
Scott's men and women " little more than mechan- 
ical cases, deceptively painted automatons." This 
is the Carlyle who conceded to Cardinal Newman 
the possession of intellectual powers equivalent to 
those of a rabbit; un vrai lapin! Scott " fashions 
his characters from the skin inwards, never getting 
near the heart of them." Never near the broken 




f s 




The Chantrey Bust of Sir Walter Scott, 1820. 



THE NOVELS 109 

stoical heart of Saunders Mucklebackit ; of the 
fallen Bradwardine, happy in unsullied honour; 
never near the heart of the maddened Peter Pee- 
bles; never near the flawless Christian heart of 
Bessie M'Clure; or the heart of dauntless remorse 
of Nancy Ewart; or the heart of sacrificed love in 
Diana Vernon; or the stout heart of Dalgetty in 
the dungeon of Inveraray; or the secret soul of 
Mary Stuart, revealed when she is reminded of 
Bastian's bridal mask, and the deed of Kirk o J 
Field? Quid plura, Thomas Carlyle wrote sple- 
netic nonsense : " he was very capable of having it 
happen to him." 



CHAPTER V 

GUr MJNNERING TO KENILWORTH 

" Waverley n is not, perhaps, the novel with 
which one would recommend a person anxious to 
find out whether or not Sir Walter can still be read, 
to begin his studies. The six chapters written in 
1805 are prolix and unnecessary. A modern nar- 
rator would commence with Chapter VIII. " It 
was about noon when Captain Waverley entered 
the straggling village or rather hamlet of Tully- 
Veolan," and would find easy means of enlighten- 
ing us as to who Captain Waverley was. One sen- 
tence in the long preliminary account of the hero 
refers to Scott himself. " He would exercise for 
hours that internal sorcery, by which past or im- 
aginary scenes are presented, in action as it were, 
to the eyes of the muser." Like Dickens and 
Thackeray, Scott was a natural " visualizer," see- 
ing in his mind's eye the aspects of his characters, 
and hearing their voices. Perhaps there is no po- 
etic genius without this gift, which Mr. Galton has 
found almost absent among, and unknown to men 



"WAVERLEY" in 

of science, though the presence of the power of 
visualization by no means implies that it is accom- 
panied by genius. Scott's friends did not conceal 
from him that they were little interested in his tale, 
before they entered the village and chateau of 
Tully-Veolan. From that point all was new to 
most of them, while no romance of the Forty-Five, 
a theme now so hackneyed, or of Highland life and 
manners at the date of Sixty Years Since had ever 
been offered to the world. Indeed the death of 
the last of the male line of Stuart was almost con- 
temporary with the year in which Scott began his 
romance, and while there remained a shadowy King 
over the water, a Jacobite romance might seem a 
thing in doubtful taste. We cannot, after a cen- 
tury, feel the absolute freshness of impression 
which the novel made on contemporary readers. 

We know, in one way or another, all that can 
be said about Highland and Lowland life in 1745, 
and there are passages of Waverley in which we 
are almost reminded of Becker's Charicles, and 
other instructive pictures of classical manners. 
Scott, of course, was accused of " slandering the 
Highlanders," because he described the cattle steal- 
ings which, as contemporaries assert, were regularly 
organized by the furtive genius of Macdonnell 
of Barisdale, with intermediaries among the broken 
clan of the Macgregors, and the less reputable of 



ii2 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

the dwellers in Rannoch. The relations of Cluny 
Macpherson with the independent Highland com- 
panies had been not unlike those of Fergus Mac- 
Ivor, a chief quite as much impelled by personal 
ambition, and the promise of a Jacobite earldom 
(Lovat was to be a duke, Glengarry an earl), as 
by any disinterested devotion to the White Rose. 
There were chiefs like Lochiel, as there were Low- 
landers like the Oliphants of Gask, who fought 
purely for the sake of honour and devotion. The 
mass of the Jacobite clansmen were notoriously as 
loyal as steel to their Prince. But there are black 
sheep in every flock. " There is something," says 
Scott, " in the severe judgment passed on my coun- 
trymen, that if they do not prefer Scotland to truth, 
they will always prefer it to inquiry." Scott pre- 
ferred inquiry, and gave us the results in Callum 
Beg and in the darker side of the character of Fer- 
gus Maclvor, which irritated some of the fiery 
Celts. Fergus redeems himself by the courage of 
his end, but the favourite characters of the novel 
are, as usual, the subordinates, that gallant, prosy, 
honourable pedant, the Baron Bradwardine, Davy 
Gellatley with his songs, Balmawhapple, Baillie 
Macwheeble, Evan Dhu Maccombich, the Gifted 
Gilfillan, the Prince himself, and how many others ! 
The pictures of Holyrood and the Prince's Court, 
of the rout of Prestonpans, and the march into 



"GUY MANNERING" 113 

England, are as brilliant as they then were unhack- 
neyed, and though Waverley is not the best of the 
series of novels, it made an excellent beginning. 

Meanwhile stern necessity urged Scott to that 
grinding of verses, invita Minerva, to which he 
said that '' the peine forte et dure is nothing in 
comparison," and his mood was " devilish repul- 
sive " to the task of working on The Lord of the 
Isles. So he wrote the last three cantos in five 
weeks, and set out for Abbotsford to " refresh the 
machine " by writing Guy Mannering in six! He 
had only gleaned the story of the Astrologer on 
November 7, from Mr. Train, and between that 
date and some time in February 18 15, he had fin- 
ished both The Lord of the Isles and the novel of 
The Astrologer. He announced to Mr. Morritt 
at once that " The Lord of the Isles closes my po- 
etic labours upon an extended scale," this before 
the book proved not quite satisfactory to the public. 
He was wont to say that he abandoned poetry " on 
an extended scale " because Byron " beat " him, 
but he was now forty-five, was confessedly weary 
of " grinding verses," and had found an easier, a 
more congenial, and a more lucrative form of 
work, one which suited his genius better, and was 
of a more permanent appeal than the romance in 
verse. Since his time, setting apart the temporary 
vogue of Byron's Giaours and Laras y rhymed ro- 



ii 4 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

mances on Oriental themes, the world has steadily 
declined to read long narrative poems. Mr. Will- 
iam Morris alone, for a while, won some readers 
back to his peculiar form of this genre. In The 
Lord of the Isles we remember little but the Battle 
of Bannockburn, which has all the fiery energy of 
Scott in his Homeric mood, and makes a fit pen- 
dant to his Flodden Field. Though Scott, before 
he learned from Ballantyne that the book was a 
comparative failure, had meant to abandon rhymed 
romances, he was a little damped by knowledge of 
the fact, and, pointing to The Giaour, which Byron 
had sent to him, he remarked, " James, Byron hits 
the mark where I don't even pretend to fledge my 
arrow." Says Lockhart, " he always appeared to 
me quite blind to the fact that in The Giaour, in 
The Bride of Abydos, in Parisina, and indeed in all 
his early serious narratives, Byron owed at least 
half his success to clever though perhaps uncon- 
scious imitation of, Scott." He also owed much 
to his Oriental themes, to the vogue of his beauty 
and life of adventure, and to his fluttering of the 
dovecotes of propriety. Byron spoke as generously 
of Scott as Scott did of Byron: neither felt for the 
other the indifference of Wordsworth nor the con- 
tempt of Coleridge. In contact with Scott all that 
is finest in Byron's character glows like the diamond 
in the presence of radium. 



"GUY MANNERING" 115 

Guy Mannering made up for Scott's disappoint- 
ment. His advisers, from the first, deemed it 
" more interesting " than Waverley, perhaps be- 
cause it dealt with their own times and manners, 
for the topic is not in itself nearly so rich in 
romance. The strength of the book is in the char- 
acters, the donnert good humoured laird, that 
customary villain, the attorney, the smugglers, the 
gipsies, Meg Merrilees, honest Dandie Dinmont, 
and the lawyers whether at high jinks or in more 
sober mood, while the scene of the old maid's fu- 
neral and the reading of her will cannot be sur- 
passed. Dominie Sampson was a great favourite, 
though a sample of " Scott's bores," and too apt 
to return like a refrain, with his peculiarities, in 
the manner of some of Dickens's characters. 

Scott went up to London with his laurels fresh, 
and met Byron; the pair, in Homeric fashion, ex- 
changed gifts, Scott offering a gold-hilted Oriental 
dagger, and Byron a silver vase, containing the 
dust of Athenian men of old. Scott remarked in 
Byron a trait of Rousseau's, starts of suspicion, 
when he seemed to pause and consider whether 
there had not been a secret, and perhaps offensive, 
meaning in something casually said to him. At 
times he was " almost gloomy," and, in short, he 
must have been " gey ill to live with." But Scott 
quietly allowed the black dog to leave his shoulder, 



n6 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

and consoled himself with the less perilous gaieties 
of the Prince Regent. Scott always denied the 
story that the Prince asked him point blank 
whether he was the author of Waverley. The 
Duke of York, however, said " my brother went 
rather too near the wind about Waverley, but no- 
body could have turned the thing more prettily 
than Walter Scott did." In fact his reply sailed 
as near the wind as the insinuation of the Prince. 

The news of Waterloo, the triumph of his na- 
tion, allured Scott to the scene of the battle. He 
left London for the Continent a month after the 
fight. His expenses and more were paid by Paul's 
Letters to his Kinsfolk, journal letters written to 
the Abbotsford circle. These contain so perfect a 
picture of the man at this juncture that, if people 
had time to read Lockhart's Life of him, the book 
might well be added to it as a supplementary vol- 
ume of autobiography. Scott's enthusiasm for the 
national victory did not swallow up his observation 
of every trait of foreign life, or his excitement 
over " the tiniest relics of feudal antiquity." He 
saw the battlefield under the guidance of Costar, 
the peasant who, according to his own account, ac- 
companied Napoleon, a point on which there were 
sceptics. 

Already the British myth of the battle was cur- 
rent, and is reported by Scott in a letter to the Duke 



WATERLOO 117 

of Buccleuch. The legend was that the Prussian 
fire was not heard, nor did the Prussian columns 
appear from within the woods, till the moment 
when a part of the French Imperial Guard made 
the last attack on our position. Now the Prussians 
really made themselves felt on the French right 
about four or half-past four o'clock, and three 
hours were occupied by them in furious fighting at 
Planchenoit, while the French captured La Haye 
Sainte on our front; and the Prussians, in rein- 
forcements constantly coming up, were doing the 
business on the French right, and beginning to 
menace the French rear, when the last charge by 
a portion of their Guard was made and failed. 
Scott understands all this in his Life of Napoleon, 
though even there he does not quite make clear 
the length and severity of the Prussian task. But 
even British officers engaged at Waterloo seem to 
have gravely misconceived the magnitude of Blu- 
cher's share in the victory. 

" France is not, and cannot be crushed," said 
Scott, and, in 18 15, he foresaw the Orleanist con- 
spiracy of fifteen years, and the fall of the Bour- 
bons. On meeting the Duke of Wellington he felt 
those emotions of awe which he attributes to 
Roland Graeme in the presence of the Regent 
Moray, " the eminent soldier and statesman, the 
wielder of a nation's power, and the leader of its 



n8 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

armies." " To have done things worthy to be 
written was, in his eyes, a dignity to which no man 
had made any approach, who had only written 
things worthy to be read." The gallant Wolfe 
expressed the converse opinion, when he recited 
Gray's Elegy in the boat, on the way to the capture 
of Quebec, and to his death, Scott's belief in doing 
as far superior to writing, embraced the achieve- 
ments of peace as well as of war. He " betrayed 
painful uneasiness when his works were alluded to 
as reflecting honour on the age that had produced 
Watt's improvement of the steam engine, and the 
safety lamp of Sir Humphry Davy." In brief, 
Scott was a born man of action, and only the acci- 
dent of his lameness prevented him from being the 
mate of Hill and Picton in the field, and perhaps 
the rival of Napier as the historian of warfare. 
That gift of seeing with the mind's eye, which was 
noted in Wellington as well as in Napoleon, would 
have served his purposes as a general. 

He came home, with presents for all the people 
on his estate, and with that poem of Waterloo 
which was the subject of amusing banter, 

None, by sabre or by shot, 
Fell half so flat as Walter Scott. 

The emendations made by John Ballantyne on the 
proof sheets of this effort show considerable intel- 



"THE ANTIQUARY " 119 

ligence and taste, and in several cases were ap- 
proved of and accepted by the author, though he 
once said that he was " the Black Brunswicker of 
literature who neither took nor gave criticism." 
In fact he took rather too much, in some cases, as 
in St. Ronan's Well, altered and spoiled to please 
the prudery of James Ballantyne. The profits of 
the first edition of Waterloo went to the fund for 
the widows and orphans of soldiers. By Decem- 
ber 1 8 15, PauVs Letters to his Kinsfolk were pub- 
lished, and the " sweet heathen of Monkbarns," 
The Antiquary, was in hand. 

In this novel Scott wrote of his own day, and 
with one or two old friends, was himself the com- 
posite model for The Antiquary. As usual, the 
reader cares not much for Lovel and his lady, Miss 
Wardour, but the humour of the portraits of the 
sturdy Whig antiquary, his sense, and his foibles, 
and of his rival and friend the foolish Tory, Sir 
Arthur Wardour, are perennially delightful. Per- 
haps only archaeological amateurs can thoroughly 
appreciate the learning of which Monkbarns is so 
profuse, and this, no doubt, is a drawback to the 
popularity of the tale. The charlatan, Douster- 
swivel, is in a rather forced vein of humour, but 
the figures of Edie Ochiltree, of the gossips in the 
village post-office, of the barber, and all the country 
folk, with the incident of the escape from the rising 



1 2d SIR WALTER SCOTT 

tide, and the romance of Elspeth of the Burnfoot 
and the stoicism of Mucklebackit, are, in their 
various ways, examples of Scott at his very best, 
while the ballad of the Red Harlaw stands abso- 
lutely alone, far above all modern attempts to 
imitate ancient popular Volkslieder. 

Now haud your tongue, baith wife and carle, 

And listen, great and sma', 
And I will sing of Glenallan's Earl 

That fought on the red Harlaw. 

The cronach's cried on Bennachie, 

And doun the Don and a', 
And hieland and lawland may mournfu* be 

For the sair field of Harlaw. 

They saddled a hundred milk-white steeds, 

They hae bridled a hundred black, 
With a chafron of steel on each horse's head, 

And a good knight upon his back. 

They hadna ridden a mile, a mile, 

A mile, but barely ten, 
When Donald came branking down the brae 

Wi' twenty thousand men. 

Their tartans they were waving wide, 

Their glaives were glancing clear, 
The pibrochs rung frae side to side, 

Would deafen ye to hear. 



HARLAW 121 

The great Earl in his stirrups stood 

That Highland host to see; 
"Now here a knight that's stout and good 

May prove a jeopardie: 

"What wouldst thou do, my squire so gay, 

That rides beside my reyne, 
Were ye Glenallan's Earl the day, 

And I were Roland Cheyne? 

"To turn the rein were sin and shame, 

To fight were wondrous peril, 
What would ye do now, Roland Cheyne, 

Were ye Glenallan's Earl?" 

"Were I Glenallan's Earl this tide 

And ye were Roland Cheyne, 
The spur should be in my horse's side, 

And the bridle upon his mane. 

"If they hae twenty thousand blades, 

And we twice ten times ten, 
Yet they hae but their tartan plaids, 

And we are mail-clad men. 

"My horse shall ride through ranks sae rude, 

As through the moorland fern, 
Then ne'er let the gentle Norman blude 

Grow cauld for Highland kerne." 

In this novel Scott began his practice of invent- 
ing mottoes, mainly from " Old Plays, " for the 
headings of his chapters, and among these scraps 



122 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

are plain warrants for his title of poet. When they 
were collected into a little volume he owned that 
he could not, in all cases, profess to be certain of his 
authorship. His memory of the works of others 
was better than his memory of his own. " Pretty 
verses these, are they Byron's? " he said, on hear- 
ing some lady sing Cleveland's song from The 
Pirate. Of his memory Hogg tells the following 
anecdote, which may be given verbatim, as Hogg's 
Domestic Manners of Sir Walter Scott is a rather 
rare little book. 

" He, and Skene of Rubislaw, and I were out 
one night about midnight, leistering kippers in 
Tweed, about the end of January, not long after 
the opening of the river for fishing, which was then 
on the tenth, and Scott having a great range of the 
river himself, we went up to the side of the rough 
haugh of Elibank; but when we came to kindle our 
light, behold, our peat was gone out. This was a 
terrible disappointment, but to think of giving up 
our sport was out of the question, so we had no 
other shift save to send Bob Fletcher all the way 
through the darkness, the distance of two miles, for 
another fiery peat. 

" The night was mild, calm, and as dark as 
pitch, and while Fletcher was absent we three sat 
down on the brink of the river, on a little green 
sward which I will never forget, and Scott desired 



HOGG 123 

me to sing them my ballad of ' Gilman's-cleuch.' 
Now, be it remembered that this ballad had never 
been printed, I had merely composed it by rote, 
and, on finishing it three years before, had sung it 
once over to Sir Walter. I began it, at his request, 
but at the eighth or ninth stanza I stuck in it, and 
could not get on with another verse, on which he 
began it again and recited it every word from be- 
ginning to end. It being a very long ballad, con- 
sisting of eighty-eight stanzas, I testified my aston- 
ishment, knowing that he had never heard it but 
once, and even then did not appear to be paying 
particular attention. He said he had been out with 
a pleasure party as far as the opening of the Frith 
of Forth, and, to amuse the company, he had recited 
both that ballad and one of Southey's ('The 
Abbot of Aberbrothock ' ) , both of which ballads 
he had only heard once from their respective 
authors, and he believed he recited them both with- 
out misplacing a word." 

In May 18 16 The Antiquary appeared; in 
April he had begun The Tales of my Landlord, he 
wrote the historical part of The Annual Register, 
and he trifled with Harold the Dauntless, while as 
busy as ever with official duties, society, and sport, 
adding 850 acres to his estate, by purchases of small 
farms at exorbitant prices. Meanwhile he did not 
clear off the cargoes of encumbrances of useless 



124 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

books, and wind up the Ballantyne affairs. Instead 
of making a firm bargain with Constable, John 
Ballantyne negotiated the business of The Black 
Dwarf and Old Mortality with Mr. Blackwood 
and Mr. Murray — the volumes were not to bear 
the name of " the Author of Waverley" Now 
Mr. Blackwood, very naturally, did not care for 
The Black Dwarf, and " without seeking any 
glossy periphrase," spoke out his demand for 
alterations to James Ballantyne. Scott's temper 
was not governed on this occasion, but James did 
not report to Mr. Blackwood the very unparlia- 
mentary terms of the reply to his " most impudent 
proposal." 

Old Mortality and The Black Dwarf came out, 
at the end of 1816, in four volumes. The Black 
Dwarf is of little account, but Old Mortality is in 
the first three of the Waverley novels in merit. 
Scott knew the Covenanting literature well, and, if 
he has made errors, for example where he writes 
as if the English Liturgy were in use, in the Scot- 
land of the Restoration, he may be merely seeking 
effect. But the learned Dr. M'Crie, the biogra- 
pher of Knox, a most painful student of manuscript 
sources, published a long set of criticisms his- 
torical, in an Edinburgh serial, to which Scott 
thought fit to reply in a review of the romance in 
The Quarterly. Erskine wrote the literary parts 



"OLD MORTALITY 



125 



of the criticism, while Scott replied, with much 
humour and great good humour, to his clerical 
censor. The Covenanters of the Restoration were 
a peculiar people. In 1660, when the King came 
to his own, the leaders of the milder party were 
ready to abate the claims of the preachers to " rule 
the roast " in politics ; and one of the leaders wished 
to see the preachers of the fiercer party banished 
to the Orkneys. The zealots, on the other hand, 
desired Charles II to put down the Church of Eng- 
land in England, which meant civil war. But both 
parties were equally struck at by the introduction 
of Episcopacy without a Liturgy. Like the zealots 
on divers occasions, the Governors under Charles 
II expelled the Non-conformists from their pulpits. 
A rising followed, and then a skimble-skamble 
Government which offered " Indulgences " to Pres- 
byterians. The milder sort were satisfied with 
being tolerated, the wilder sort wished to be intol- 
erant, and the Kirk split into divers sections, hating 
each other nearly as much as they hated prelatists. 
Strange wandering prophets, prophesying balder- 
dash, scoured the country, pursued by dragoons, 
and in their utterances are many ludicrous things 
and anarchic doctrines, reprobated by the more 
peaceful section. 

Scott knew all the parties, and was not tender to 
the absurdities. He had written a novel, not a 



126 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

history, and had used the licence of a novelist. 
Meanwhile in the beautiful character of Bessie Ma- 
dure, Scott surely made amends for his maniac 
preacher, his indulged preacher, and the rest of 
his warring Covenanters. The Claverhouse of the 
novel is not, of course, the actual Claverhouse of 
history, but he is more like the man than the absurd 
Claverhouse of Macaulay. One fault is attributed 
to the gallant Graham which he did not possess. 
Far from being reckless of plebeian as opposed to 
" gentle " blood, he urged the policy of sparing 
the multitude and punishing their " gentle leaders." 
It is improbable that Claverhouse was given to 
quoting Froissart, as in the novel, but he did quote 
Lucan, an author admired by Scott. 

We cannot go into a criticism of the historical 
accuracy of a novel. Old Mortality is not only 
one of Scott's most stirring tales, but it contains 
even an unusual number of his most admirable 
characters, Cuddie and Mause Headrigg, Gudyill, 
the Major, Goose Gibbie, Old Milnwood (a true 
" Laird Nippy"), the murderer Burly, Bessie 
Maclure, Jenny Dennison, that unscrupulous co- 
quette, Milnwood's housekeeper, the fallen Both- 
well, the fanatics of every shade, and Claverhouse 
himself. Indeed, be the inaccuracies of detail what 
they may, and they are trivial, no romance based 



"OLD MORTALITY " 127 

on book knowledge displays so correct a general 
picture of the men and the times. 

Old Mortality himself, about whom Scott heard 
much from his friend, Mr. Train (who suggested 
the novel) , had been met by the author in his youth 
at Dunottar Castle among the graves of the Cove- 
nanters who died of ill-usage in the castle dun- 
geons. That a number of soldiers in like manner 
perished of hunger when the Whigs got the upper 
hand at Edinburgh in 1688 is a circumstance gen- 
erally omitted by the Whiggish Muse of Modern 
History. What would not have been said had 
hundreds of prisoners taken by Montrose been 
starved to death? Yet even Mr. Gardiner does 
not mention the hundreds of Royalist prisoners 
taken by Cromwell at Dunbar, immured in Dur- 
ham Cathedral, and there permitted to die of hun- 
ger. To be sure the levies of Montrose took very 
few prisoners indeed, but settled all scores with the 
claymore. 

Old Mortality contains a striking scene in 
which the appearance of Henry Morton is taken 
by Edith for his apparition, after or at the moment 
of death. The novels, like the poems, are seldom 
without a touch of " the supernatural, " which, in 
the case of Morton's appearance, was the normal. 
In Waverley there is the death warning to Fergus 
Maclvor; in Guy Mannering there is the fulfilled 



128 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

horoscope : in The Antiquary the apparition to the 
hero is explained away, to some extent, but yields 
the desired effect. Scott was very much interested 
in phantasms and witchcraft, his library is rich in 
rare old books full of ghostly narratives, Bovet, 
Lavaterus, Sinclair, Petrus Thyraeus and crowds 
of others. Neither his friends nor he himself knew 
the precise frontiers of his belief and disbelief. At 
an inn he slept soundly in one bed of a double- 
bedded room, while a dead man occupied the other. 
He was insensible to fear, in these airy matters, 
and says that he had only twice in his life felt 
" eery." Once it was at Glamis Castle, haunted 
for long by a legend of a Presence in a secret 
chamber. The secret of the chamber is no se- 
cret, and the Presence is borrowed bodily from 
a story current, in the eighteenth century, about 
Vale Royal in Cheshire. The other occasion on 
which Scott felt " eery " is not given by Lockhart, 
but is probably revealed by this anecdote of 
Gillies. 

" The most awkward circumstance about well- 
authenticated hobgoblins," said he, " is that they, 
for the most part, come and disappear without any 
intelligible object or purpose, except to frighten 
people ; which, with all due deference, seems rather 
foolish! Very many persons have either seen a 



GHOST STORIES 129 

ghost, or something like one, and I am myself 
among the number; but my story is not a jot better 
than the others I have heard, which, for the most 
part, were very inept. The good stories are sadly 
devoid of evidence; the stupid ones only are 
authentic. 

" There is a particular turning of the high road 
through the Forest near Ashestiel, at a place which 
affords no possible means of concealment; the grass 
is smooth, and always eaten bare by the sheep; 
there is no heather, nor underwood, nor cavern, in 
which any mortal being could conceal himself. 
Towards this very spot I was advancing one even- 
ing on horseback — please to observe it was before 
dinner, and not long after sunset, so that I ran no 
risk either of seeing double, or wanting sufficient 
light for my observations. Before me, at the dis- 
tance of about a quarter of a mile, there stood a 
human figure, sharply enough defined by the twi- 
light. I advanced; it stalked about with a long 
staff in its hand, held like a wand of office, but only 
went to and fro, keeping at the same corner, till, as 
I came within a few yards, my friend all in an in- 
stant vanished. I was so struck with his eccentric 
conduct, that although Mrs. Scott was in delicate 
health, and I was anxious to get home to a late 
dinner, I could not help stopping to examine the 



130 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

ground all about, but in vain; he had either dis- 
solved into air, or sunk into the earth, where I knew 
well there was no coal-pit to receive him. Had he 
lain down on the greensward, the colour of his 
drapery, which was dusky brown, would have be- 
trayed him at once, so that there was no practicable 
solution of the mystery. 

" I rode on, and had not advanced above fifty 
yards, when, on looking back, my friend was there 
again, and even more clearly visible than before. 
' Now,' said I to myself, ' I most certainly have 
you ! ' so wheeled about and spurred Finella ; but 
the result was as before, he vanished instantane- 
ously. I must candidly confess I had now got 
enough of the phantasmagoria; and whether it 
were from a love of home, or a participation in my 
dislike of this very stupid ghost, no matter, Finella 
did her best to run away, and would by no means 
agree to any further process of investigation. I 
will not deny that I felt somewhat uncomfortable, 
and half inclined to think that this apparition was 
a warning of evil to come, or indication, however 
obscure, of misfortune that had already occurred. 
So strong was this impression, that I almost feared 
to ask for Mrs. Scott when I arrived at Ashestiel ; 
but, as Dr. Johnson said on a similar occasion, 
* nothing ever came of it.' " 

The strange disturbances at Abbots ford, as if 



SECOND SIGHT 131 

all the heavy furniture were being moved about, 
did not make Scott " eery." He arose, 

Bolt upright 

And ready to fight, 

armed for war with the sword of his Jacobite an- 
cestor, Auld Beardie. But when the noises, never 
accounted for, were found to have been coincident 
with the death of the purveyor of the furniture, 
Mr. Bullock, in London, Lockhart admits that 
Scott was not only puzzled but considerably im- 
pressed. 

Such rackets, preceding or accompanying a 
death, are familiar to writers whom he knew well, 
Lavaterus, Thyraeus, Theophilus Insulanus on the 
Second Sight, and the rest, and persist among the 
beliefs of Highlands and Lowlands. There is 
always a hammering in the shop of a certain High- 
land carpenter, on the night before a coffin is or- 
dered. On the whole Scott's frame of mind was 
akin, on this point, to that of Kant, who did not 
believe in any special ghost story, but did not disbe- 
lieve in ghost stories in general. He would say 
that the only men known to him who had seen 
ghosts were either mad, or later went mad, yet he 
had seen some kind of apparition himself. Every- 
thing connected with hypnotism (then styled Ani- 
mal Magnetism) he dismissed as part of " the peck 



132 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

of dirt," which each generation must eat in its 
turn. Yet he was anxious to investigate the ink- 
gazing of Egypt, which he could easily have done, 
with a glass ball, at home. In short he enjoyed 
the human thrill which is awakened by good stories 
of the u supernormal," and communicated the thrill 
in Wandering Willie's Tale, in the appearance of 
the death wraith of old Alice to the Master of 
Ravenswood (the best wraith in fiction), in My 
Aunt Margaret's Mirror, and in the terrible story, 
gleaned from Hannah More, of The Tapestried 
Chamber. His Letters on Demonology and Witch- 
craft are the work of his declining age, and adopt 
the dull line of sturdy common-sense. But his ex- 
planation of the information received in a dream, 
in The Antiquary, is that of St. Augustine, and 
even, in many cases, of Mr. F. W. H. Myers, with 
his theory of the more normal workings of the 
" Subliminal Self." 

For more than twenty years Scott had enjoyed 
unbroken health, and had treated " the machine," 
his body and brain, as few men except Napoleon 
have overtaxed that engine. In Edinburgh he 
lived, he says, " too genially." Lockhart has de- 
scribed his plain but Gargantuan breakfasts; he 
took little or no exercise, driving to court with other 
advocates, and we must remember that the dinner 
parties of that age began early and ended late, 



HEALTH 133 

while the champagne and sherry and port and Bur- 
gundy were followed by a " shass caffy " (as Mr. 
Henry Foker calls it), in the shape of rummers of 
whisky and water, " hot, with." A healthier gen- 
eration is justly horrified by these excesses of con- 
viviality, in which Scott took his part, like other 
advocates and judges of his time, rising at five 
o'clock next morning to write twenty or thirty 
printed pages of his novel. At Abbotsford, he 
said, he never sat down, as in Edinburgh he was 
always seated, at one kind of table or another. His 
task done before breakfast, he rode or drove, or 
worked in his plantations, or underwent the toil of 
receiving bores, he coursed, he passed the midnight 
hours in " burning the water," that is, spearing 
salmon by torchlight, a picturesque but now, hap- 
pily, an illegal pastime. 

The refreshment of the machine was writing at 
a furious pace, and, in 18 17, the longsuffering 
mechanism resented its treatment. Scott had still 
eight years of apparent prosperity before him, but 
he had no more years of unbroken health. Violent 
" cramps in the stomach," as they were called, 
seized him, and drove this stoic, " bellowing like 
a bull," forth from the guests at his own table. He 
tells us, and Hogg tells us, that heated salt, which 
burned his shirt to ashes, was applied to the seat 
of his malady, " and I hardly felt it," says the suf- 



134 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

ferer. Then came the heroic remedies of profuse 
bleeding and blistering, and diet of toast, with only 
three glasses of wine daily. It was in tormentis 
that he finished Rob Roy and dictated The Bride 
of Lammermoor, the story being often interrupted 
by his outcries of pain. Fortunately he now had 
Will Laidlaw with him as amanuensis. That he 
undertook Rob Roy (for once "writing up to a 
name," to please Constable) in such circumstances 
of recurring agony and weakness, was an example, 
perhaps of his courage, certainly, in the words of 
St. Francis, an instance of his hardness on " his 
brother the ass," his fleshly body. Much heavy 
labour on history for The Annual Register, and on 
other essays, accompanied his work in fiction, and 
he was reduced to a state of languor in which, for 
once in the tone of self pity, he wrote the beautiful 
lines beginning 

The sun upon the Welrdlaw hill, 
In Ettrick's vale is sinking sweet. 

Scott was still adding acre to acre, but Rob Roy 
and the gallant price offered by Constable, enabled 
him to redeem the bond for £4,000 of which the 
Duke of Buccleuch was guarantor. At this time 
Lockhart and Blackwood's Magazine came into 
his life. In Lockhart he was to find a son rather 




B * 



LOCKHART 135 

than a son-in-law, though he could not wean him 
from that perilous enchantress, Maga, which was 
then in the wild heyday of its stormy youth. He 
declared that Rob Roy (December 18 17), "smells 
of the cramp " ; he had to wind it up more rapidly 
than he intended, but his fatally buoyant spirits 
led him to hope that in four or Rve years he might 
add the considerable estate of Faldonside to his 
acres, a dream which haunted his enfeebled mind 
in his ultimate decrepitude. Meanwhile expense 
on the estate of Abbotsford, and on the acquisition 
of curios for the collection, went on briskly, Scott 
paying prices probably too high, and conducting his 
affairs with the people on his land with a profuse 
but judicious generosity. He discovered, as others 
have done, real taste and artistic power amongst 
the craftsmen in wood and stone in the district, and 
encouraged it to the best of his power. His gold 
was not spent in vain, but the need for money grew 
with every year, and he did not measure his own 
labour by his failing strength. 

Rob Roy, whether it " smelled of the cramp " 
or not, was as popular as its hero has ever been in 
Scotland, where he has the same sort of reputation 
as Robin Hood. The novel is unusually defective 
in composition, the mystery of Rashleigh's com- 
pound of commercial malfeasance with bills, and 
of treacherous Jacobitism has always baffled the 



136 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

reader. The melodrama of Helen Macgregor is, 
in Mr. Stevenson's phrase, " too steep," and the 
whole plot is not more lucid than some plots of 
Dickens. While Diana Vernon 1 is, by popular 
acclaim, peerless among the heroines of Scott, while 
her love story is a real love story, her wooer is not 
more interesting than the general run of Scott's 
heroes. The book is saved by Diana, by the reiver 
himself, by the delightful Baillie, and by that 
flower of serving Men, the canny Scottish gardener 
Andrew Fairservice. In this novel the secret of 
authorship was let out, but passed unobserved. 
The long lecture by the Baillie on the state of the 
Highlands is taken straight from a manuscript of 
Graham of Gartmore, from whom Scott purchased 
his most authentic relic, the sword of the great 
Montrose. Scott lent the manuscript to Jamieson, 
who published it in his edition of Burt's Letters 
from the North, acknowledging his debt to Scott. 
Now as Scott used his manuscript in Rob Roy, here 
was a plain piece de conviction, but no hunter after 
proof of authorship of the Waverley novels ever 
detected the facts, in fact I believe that I was the 
first person who observed them ! 

1 That Diana Vernon is drawn from Scott's friend, Miss 
Cranstoun, the Countess von Purgstall, is an uncertain theory 
of Basil Hall's. 



"ROB ROY" 137 

The next novel, perhaps less permanently popu- 
lar (for Rob Roy holds the stage in London as I 
write) , but more excellent, was The Heart of Mid- 
lothian (June 181 8). Lady Louisa Steuart wrote 
that she " was a little tired of your Edinburgh law- 
yers in the Introduction," and they are fatiguing; 
not so the lawyers of whom Saddletree converses 
with so much freedom. English people are wel- 
come to be impatient of the passages alluding to 
Scottish law throughout, but Scottish readers can- 
not weary of these admirably humorous pictures 
of the jovial and learned old national Bar, one of 
the few institutions not denationalized by the 
Union of 1707. The lover of Effie Deans is by far 
too melodramatic, too " satanic." For once, in 
this failure of a character, Scott was imitating 
Byron's heroes, whether he knew it or not, as Byron 
imitated figures like the Schedoni of Mrs. Rad- 
cliffe. The story does break down at Rosneath, as 
Lady Louisa said: that portion is only redeemed 
by " the gracious Duncan," a most amusing 
" slander on the Highlanders." Then we have 
Dumbiedykes, and Rory Bean, and the very pearl 
of belated Covenanters Davie Deans. He is 
" lifted " straight from that honest, brave, absurd 
Peter or Patrick Walker, who suffered torture as 
a mere boy during the Restoration, and lived well 



138 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

into the eighteenth century, compiling his biogra- 
phies of Covenanting characters, such as Cameron 
and Peden. Walker was to them what Izaak Wal- 
ton was to the great divines of the Church of 
England in his long and well-contented day. How 
true Davie Deans is to his model the reader may 
discover in Mr. Hay Fleming's Saints of the Cove- 
nant, a reprint of Walker's Biographies with notes. 
When we add Ratclifte, the pleasing rogue, the 
wild singer, Madge Wildfire, the thrilling interest 
of the Porteous mob, the study of the great Duke 
of Argyll, the scene with the Queen, the adventures 
of the road, and the matchless character of Jeanie 
Deans, with her foil in the pretty wilful Effie, we 
must acknowledge that, if The Heart of Midlo- 
thian is not absolutely the first, alone in place, of 
the Waverley novels, it is certainly second to none. 
" I should have found you out," wrote Lady 
Louisa, in that one parenthesis, " for the man was 
mortal and had been a schoolmaster." No number 
of formal histories can convey nearly so full and 
true a picture of Scottish life about 1730-40, as 
The Heart of Midlothian. As social history it is 
unrivalled. In Edinburgh Lockhart had never 
witnessed " such a scene of all engrossing enthusi- 
asm," in any literary matter, as on the appearance 
of this novel. To think of it is to wish to throw 
down the pen, and take the book again from the 



"HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN" 139 

shelf, as Thackeray says when he chances to men- 
tion Dugald Dalgetty. But young people now, as 
they did in 1818, according to Lady Louisa, 
" never heard of the Duke of Argyll before. 
1 Pray who was Sir Robert Walpole ? ' they ask me, 
1 and when did he live ? ' or, perhaps, ' was not the 
great Lord Chatham in Queen Anne's days?'" 
Readers who are exhaustively ignorant of and un- 
concerned about the past, cannot be expected to 
read Scott, and such readers were common in his 
own time, not to speak of our educated age. 

The Bride of Lammermoor appears to have been 
begun before The Heart of Midlothian was pub- 
lished. At the end of 18 18 Scott received a bar- 
onetcy, and though he at once anticipated the quo- 
tation (which Hogg incontinently made), 

I like not 
Such grinning honour as Sir Walter hath, 

no doubt he liked very well the revival of the old 
Border name, " Sir Walter Scott." That he should 
enjoy the title was perfectly natural, and its gift, 
as the Prince Regent really was fond of literature, 
seems no less in nature. 

With the winter, and with the sedentary life of 
Edinburgh, the terrible cramps returned. He sold 
his copyrights to Constable for £12,000, and had 
Constable paid, before 1826, the bond of 181 8, 



i 4 o SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Scott would have had no later interest in this valu- 
able property. But, characteristically, the debt was 
not fully discharged before Constable's ruin in 
1826. The spring of 18 19 was passed under tor- 
ment, and under the medical artillery of bleeding, 
blistering, calomel, and ipecacuanha. As a better 
remedy Scott's Highland piper selected twelve 
stones from twelve southward running streams; 
on these the patient was to sleep. Scott, however, 
said that the charm stones only worked if wrapped 
in the petticoat of a widow who had never wished 
to marry again, and Science, in the person of the 
piper, abandoned the case. Removal to Abbots- 
ford did not alleviate the pangs, but here Scott dic- 
tated The Bride of Lammermoor to Will Laidlaw 
and John Ballantyne. He was interrupted by cries 
wrung from him in agony, and it is not wonderful, 
perhaps, that when he saw the book in print, he 
could not remember a single line of it, but read in 
fear and trembling, for who knew what absurdity 
it might contain? Thackeray had the same expe- 
rience as to part of Pendennis, written before a 
serious illness. In Scott's case perhaps the incredi- 
ble amount of opiates with which he was drugged 
may explain his forgetfulness. " As to giving over 
work," he said to Laidlaw, " that can only be when 
I am in woollen." 

When Lockhart visited Scott, in May 18 19, the 



"BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR " 141 

colour of his hair had changed from a brindled 
grey to snow white, at the age of forty-seven. His 
face " was meagre, haggard, and of the deadliest 
yellow of the jaundice." That night, in a fresh fit 
of pain, his cries were distinctly audible at a con- 
siderable distance from the house, but by eleven 
o'clock next day he mounted his horse and rode 
with Lockhart past Philiphaugh and up Yarrow, 
discoursing of Montrose's defeat, and in high spir- 
its about a pending election. Yet, a month later, 
when The Bride of Lammermoor and The Legend 
of Montrose appeared, Scott was believed to be 
on his deathbed. One night he took leave of his 
family, expressing in simple terms his Christian 
faith, " and now leave me that I may turn my face 
to the wall." He slept, and the crisis passed over. 
By July 19 he had nearly finished a volume of Ivan- 
hoe, which he expected to complete in September. 
Such enthusiasm of industry, in such circumstances, 
is without parallel in literary history. The Bride of 
Lammermoor is a subject which leaves an author 
no choice; he must make his novel end badly: he 
cannot avoid the tragic, and tragedy scarcely suits 
the genius of Scott. He knew the tale of the mys- 
terious death of Stair's daughter, from tradition in 
his family, and, after his illness, he remembered 
the legend as well as ever : of his own handling of 
the tale he could remember nothing. As to the real 



H2 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

facts of the case, Dr. Hickes heard them from the 
Duke of Lauderdale, and, again, from the father 
of the Bride himself, but Hickes declined to write 
the story down, lest his memory might be at fault. 
Scott was not aware of these historical facts, which 
are certainly tantalizing, as the real facts are 
unknown. 

Not only are the data of the story things of un- 
relieved gloom, but Scott has chosen to show Fate 
dealing with a heroine gentle, innocent, and weak. 
Of all heroes of novels, perhaps only two frankly 
tell their lady loves that their fathers are not gen- 
tlemen ! One of these candid wooers is Darcy, in 
Pride and Prejudice, and Elizabeth causes him to 
rue his candour. The other is the Master of 
Ravenswood, and Lucy Ashton does not resent his 
words. It is on this poor pathetic broken creature, 
as harmless as Rose Bradwardine, that Fate deals 
a blow which might have crushed these old Royal 
Greek protagonists, whom Aristotle deemed the 
only proper central figures of tragedy. The results 
are really rather miserable than tragic in the strict 
sense of the word, the victim only ceases to be 
feeble when she ceases to be sane. Her lover, 
again, the Master, is a personage quite alien to the 
nature of Scott. The Master, to be sure, is very 
unfortunate indeed, a disinherited knight, like 
Ivanhoe, but he is not more bereaved and impov- 



"BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR " 143 

erished than Quentin Durward is at the opening 
of his tale. But Quentin bears a merry heart, and 
goes all the way, like hundreds of his countrymen 
through several centuries, finding fortune, honour, 
and a bride in French service. The Master, on 
the other hand, mopes in his gloomy tower, thinks 
of assassinating his supplanter, Sir William Ash- 
ton, but declines into saving him from a bull, like 
Johnny Eames in The Small House at Allingham, 
and falls in love with the daughter of his sup- 
planter. Tennyson chose to revive the set of situa- 
tions in his Maud, where the hero is much more 
peevish and hysterical than the Master of Ravens- 
wood, while of the heroine we practically know 
nothing, except that, at sixteen, Maud was tall and 
stately, and had a classical profile. The situations 
were not, we repeat, adapted to Scott's genius, but 
they were congenial to the foreseen and inevitable 
conclusion of the story, as given by history. Lock- 
hart tells us that Caleb Balderwood was never re- 
garded as a successful humorous character, and we 
fall back on Bucklaw and that inimitable captain, 
Craigingelt, for humorous relief, while the genuine 
tragic element is supplied by old Alice, by the eery 
scene in which her wraith appears to the Master, 
and by the Chorus, as it were, of the poor old 
envious women, suspected of sorcery, the watchers 
of the dead. Scott never surpassed his dealings 



144 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

with these horrible creatures. The conclusion 
when 

The last Lord of Ravenswood to Ravenswood doth ride, 

To woo a dead maiden to be his bride, 

with the mystery of all that befell in the bridal 
bower and the ride of Lucy to church, her hand 
clay cold in that of her boyish brother, himself ad- 
mirably sketched, are entirely worthy of the genius 
of the author. When we consider the circum- 
stances in which he dictated the tale, we may well 
marvel that he could rise to such height of power. 
But otherwise the novel is not to be reckoned 
among his best: it lacks much of the usual happy 
humour. Yet it has had admirers among good 
judges who set it in the forefront of his romances. 
Thackeray, an excellent judge, greatly preferred 
to the sombre Master the redoubted Rittmeister, 
Dugald Dalgetty, of the Legend of Montrose, 
which was published in company with The Bride 
of Lammermoor. Dugald is a garrulous pedant, 
and may be styled " one of Scott's bores," but he 
never bores us, whether when he sets forth his sim- 
ple reasons for serving with the King's army, not 
with the Covenanters ; or criticises the various ser- 
vices of Europe, or lectures on the propriety of for- 
tifying the sconce of Drumsnab, or faces Argyll in 
Inveraray, or masters him in the dungeon, or 
wheedles the Presbyterian chaplain, or mocks the 



DUGALD DALGETTY 145 

bows and arrows of his allies the Children of the 
Mist: or does deeds of derring do at Inverlochy, 
or swaggers about in the fresh glories of his title 
of Knight Banneret. Dugald is always a perfect 
joy, even if we be little interested, as we are, in the 
loves of Annot Lyle and in the second-sighted man 
with his gloom and his visions. It is difficult to 
guess what Scott may have originally meant to do 
with Montrose, the most sympathetic figure in the 
long pageant of Scottish history. With the ro- 
mance of his life and character fiction cannot cope : 
nothing can match his actual history. In Argyll, 
again, Scott encountered a personage whose psy- 
chology was too intricate for his hasty methods. 
But his fingers, as he says in a letter of this period, 
sometimes seemed to him to work automatically, 
against his conscious purpose. There was, as has 
been said of Moliere, a lutin that rode his pen. 
The good horse Gustavus, in fact, " with Dalgetty 
up," ran away with Scott, and the romance became 
practically the story of one man, the Rittmeister. 
In the whirl of his multifarious activities, Scott 
remained canny enough to consider his profession 
of romance as a manufactory subject to changes of 
fashion and taste. His " tweeds," so to speak, his 
tales of Scottish manners, might go out of vogue, 
though there was as yet little competition on the 
part of other makers. Deliberately, therefore, so 



146 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

he declares, he determined to turn out a new article 
of a nature as remote as possible from his Scottish 
fabrics, a romance of English mediaeval life. In 
that period no character is so romantic and popu- 
lar as Richard I, and there is no more popular 
figure in legend than Robin Hood, though his date 
(if he be more than a mere ideal outlaw) is un- 
known, some facts point vaguely to his era as that 
of Edward II. Again, there was the picturesque 
contrast between the manners of the conquered 
English and conquering Normans, which, once 
pointed out by Scott, attracted the studies of 
Thierry, the French historian. A forgotten play, 
Runimede, by the half-forgotten and " unfortunate 
Logan," had been seen by Scott, and, he says, sug- 
gested his idea, while the old rhyme of " Tring, 
Wing, and Ivanhoe " gave him a sonorous name 
which (a great point with Scott) revealed nothing 
of the nature and scope of his narrative. He dis- 
liked " writing up " to names of familiar associa- 
tions, such as " Rob Roy " and " Kenilworth." 
With " Ivanhoe " people did not know what to ex- 
pect, and could not be disappointed. 

Mr. Freeman spoke severely of the incorrect his- 
tory and archaeology of Ivanhoe. There can be 
no such name as Cedric, the Confessor had no 
" sprouts " — of whom Athelstane, in some myste- 
rious way, is a survivor. But these were matters 



" IVANHOE " 147 

of indifference to the novelist, as he candidly ex- 
plained, and he gratified Ulrica with heathen dei- 
ties, not familiar to her remotest ancestors, but pre- 
ferred by her to the Christian creed. In fact he 
sounded his kettle drums by night, like Claver- 
house's troopers in Old Mortality, for the sake of 
the effect, and careless of the circumstance that, at 
night, the kettle drums do not clash on the march, 
just as he gave Claverhouse a post of command 
which he did not hold. He admitted that he had 
blended the manners of several distinct centuries, 
but what matter? " Such errors will escape the 
general class of readers," and the author helps him- 
self from Froissart, when The Monk of Croyland 
does not serve his turn. Here is " confession and 
avoidance," and the general reader, any reader of 
sense, cares no more for Mr. Freeman's censures 
than for the precise truth about the palisade at 
Senlac. Sir Walter was really hit by a criticism of 
one of his blazons, metal upon metal, but he found 
an authentic parallel case, and remarked that her- 
aldry was in its infancy, and had not developed half 
of its rules. An account of the German Jews, given 
by Skene of Rubislaw, suggested Isaac of York and 
Rebecca, the sudden death of an advocate in court 
gave the hint which, in the very unlooked for de- 
mise of The Templar, rescues Ivanhoe from a 
situation out of which the reader sees " no outgait." 



148 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

But surely we should have had some previous warn- 
ing that the hardy Templar suffered from a cardiac 
affection ? Scott did not think of that, and caught 
at a kind of miracle, which, I own, seemed to me 
far fetched and unsatisfactory at the uncritical age 
of ten. A thunderstorm over the lists and light- 
ning attracted by The Templar's lance appeared an 
" outgait " more picturesque, and, considering the 
robust health of The Templar, rather more proba- 
ble, while vindicatory of divine justice to a remark- 
able degree. Cannot you see the combatants clash- 
ing in the mirk, unbeheld by the spectators; you 
see the flash descend with the torrential rain, and 
the marshals of the lists, penetrating the veil of 
mist, find The Templar a clay cold corpse, and 
the Disinherited Knight " quite safe, though very 
wet," like the people in the play of The Stranger. 

However, Scott was otherwise inspired! The 
appearance of Ivanhoe, in December 1819, marked 
the flood-tide of his popularity. The English re- 
joiced at being freed from " the dialect," which was 
and remains to them a stumbling block, though they 
find no difficulty in the lingo of the modern " Kail- 
yard." Lockhart says that, after Ivanhoe, the sale 
of Scott's novels fell off, though Constable man- 
aged to conceal the circumstance from the author, 
an ill-judged proceeding. 

As Lockhart says, the next three or four years 



"THE MONASTERY " 149 

were the most expensive in Scott's life, through his 
ignorance of the truth, whereas they should have 
been years of retrenchment. It became proportion- 
ately difficult for Sir Walter to " pull up " in his 
expenditure, and the mine was laid that exploded 
seven years later. Ivanhoe remains one of the best 
known of Scott's novels, probably because it is pre- 
cisely suited to the taste of boyhood, when the eyes 
of studious boys can be diverted from the mysteri- 
ously bewitching romances of the late Mr. Henty. 
We have all sighed with Rebecca, we have all been 
of Thackeray's opinion about the " very English " 
respectable Rowena, we have all hated Front de 
Boeuf ; " amo Locksley," says Thackeray, and so 
say all of us; we have delighted in Friar Tuck, 
laughed with Wamba, and over the much-criticised 
scene, due to Scott's good nature, of the resurrec- 
tion of a trencherman so resolute as Athelstane. 
No mere knock on the head could get rid of so 
thick-skulled a thane as the lord of Coningsburgh. 
While Scott's health was recovered, while Ab- 
botsford was full of guests, and the Abbotsford 
Hunt was, as the farmer said, the thing worth liv- 
ing for in the year, The Monastery was being writ- 
ten, and proved a not undeserved failure, relatively 
speaking. The only disaster of Scott, in his treat- 
ment of visionary things, is the White Lady of 
Avenel, and of all his bores, the Euphuist, Sir 



150 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Percy Shafton is the least humorous, and was re- 
garded as the most tedious. The business of the 
bodkin, and the tailor ancestry of the really gal- 
lant though rather distraught knight, did not 
amuse, and the historical setting is not handled 
in a manner worthy of the opportunity, the sudden 
fall of the ancient Church. 

Never, surely, was such a bouleversement as the 
religious revolution taken so quietly as in Scotland. 
The only change, said the keeper of a hostel at St. 
Andrews, was that where the Dean had sat and 
called for claret, the Moderator sat and shouted 
for more toddy ! This is a story of Scott's, proba- 
bly apocryphal, for toddy did not come in with 
Presbyterianism, and Darnley is the only whisky 
drinker whom I have remarked in the documents 
of the period. The truth is that, in many districts 
of the South, Catholicism was dead before it fell. 
The love of " a new day," as they called it, and 
relief from priestly dues, with the fun of havoc 
and pillage, were universally attractive, and only 
a remnant, in outlying parishes, mourned for the 
Mass that had become a capital offence. Very few 
sentimental regrets accompanied the flight of the 
ancient faith, and the Abbot of Unreason jigged 
joyously through the roofless cathedrals. Thus 
perhaps the dramatic opportunity of Scott was less 
excellent than it seems at a first glance. Only 



"THE ABBOT" 151 

Knox's " rascal multitude " began to discover, 
after they had helped to wreck the monasteries, 
that life was as hardly ground down by lay as by 
clerical landlords, that gaiety was gone, that holi- 
days were curtailed, that the penances of the new 
Kirk were harsher than those of the old, and that 
Sunday, from a feast, had become a day of gloom. 
Under James VI a preacher observed that he 
feared the rabble more than he did the Catholic 
earls, but rabble and earls were alike brought under 
the yoke. All this had not been foreseen, and thus 
the Reformation was taken lightly, not with the 
terrible struggles of contemporary France. 

Far from being depressed, and abandoning his 
theme, Scott deliberately reverted to it, continuing 
some of the characters of The Monastery in The 
Abbot. To Lockhart, now his son-in-law, he sent 
a copy, with the inscription, 

Up he rose in a funk, lapped a toothful of brandy, 
And to it again . . . any odds upon Sandy? 

The Introduction to Nigel contains, with the rest 
of Scott's Ars Poetica, a half apology for " The 
White Lady of Avenel." She disappears from 
The Abbot, which, by virtue of the picture of 
Queen Mary and her Loch Leven adventures, and 
of Catherine Seyton, with all the lively scenes in old 



151 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Marian Edinburgh, helped to restore the author's 
shaken popularity. 

John Ballantyne had ventured a " Novelists' 
Library," heavy books in double columns, and 
Scott contributed charming introductory essays, but 
in the summer of 1821 he lost this favourite hench- 
man, and remarked that the sun would never shine 
so brightly again for himself. John clearly was no 
man of business, his possessions were a minus quan- 
tity, though he believed himself to have some prop- 
erty, and bequeathed a visionary £2,000 to Scott. 

Sir Walter went to London for the Coronation 
of George IV. Others, " the non est tanti men," 
might sneer, he said, at such pageants, might be 
" crucified to them " — as the Covenanting Laird 
of Brodie prayed to be crucified to the glories of 
the Lord Mayor's Show — but Scott defended " the 
natural and unaffected pleasure which men like me 
receive from sights of splendour and sounds of 
harmony." The Coronation wholly pleased him, 
but for the error of the Champion, who used a 
Highland target, " instead of a three-cornered or 
beater shield, which, in time of tilt, was suspended 
round the neck." Scott had made the Highland 
target too fashionable: hence the heresy of the 
Champion. Scott was recognized by the Scots 
Greys with cries of " God bless Sir Walter," and 
was allowed to pass on foot through the tabooed 



" KENILWORTH " 153 

space which they guarded on the outside of the 
Abbey. At this time was executed the bust of 
Scott by Chantrey, no doubt by far the best repre- 
sentation of the man. Raeburn, as Scott remarked, 
painted him as " a somewhat chowder-headed " 
person. Indeed no portrait caught the vivacity of 
his changeful expression, all, except the bust, are 
more or less " chowder-headed." 

Before John Ballantyne's death Scott had begun 
Kenilworth. Constable appears to have suggested 
The Armada as a subject, and to have collected 
many rare Elizabethan books for Sir Walter's use. 
Then he preferred the title of The Nunnery, while 
Scott's fancy went back to his favourite lines in 
Meikle's ballad, and to the title of Cumnor Hall. 
But he chose Kenilworth, to please Constable. His 
motto, " No scandal about Queen Elizabeth," di- 
rected his course. Though a patriotic Scot, he was 
too chivalrous to avenge on Queen Elizabeth the 
wrongs of Mary Stuart. By the most daring of 
anachronisms he deserted the real period of the 
affair of Amy Robsart, when scandal, not unpro- 
voked, about Elizabeth was rife in the popular 
mouth and in every Court of Europe ( 1560) . In 
the mystery of Amy Robsart's death, Scott had a 
psychological subject. Leicester and Amy had 
been married, not secretly but publicly, in the reign 
of Edward VI. During that of Mary Tudor a 



i54 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

strong attachment sprang up between Elizabeth 
and Leicester, then Lord Robert Dudley. On 
Elizabeth's accession to the throne she loaded her 
favourite and Master of the Horse with unprece- 
dented honours. Dudley was ever at Court, his 
wife lived retired at Cumnor Hall, and it was now 
said that she had a fatal disease, now that attempts 
were being made to poison her. 

Meanwhile the triumphant Scottish Protestants, 
with the leader of the conquered Catholics, Arch- 
bishop Hamilton, were united for once in propos- 
ing that the Queen of England should marry the 
next heir to the throne of Scotland, the Earl of 
Arran, a Protestant, the friend of Knox. But, not 
to speak of other reasons, the favour of Dudley 
with Elizabeth stood in the way. Cecil spoke of 
the danger of Lady Robert Dudley in the gloomiest 
terms, to the Spanish ambassador. To the English 
agent in Scotland, Randolph, Cecil wrote a letter, 
which has been destroyed, but which chilled Ran- 
dolph's heart. The death of Darnley was not more 
clearly foreseen, in 1567, than the death of Dud- 
ley's wife in 1560. Then, a few days after Cecil's 
letter to Randolph, news of Lady Robert's death 
came to Windsor. How she died no man knows 
to this day. The verdict of the coroner's jury, an 
open verdict apparently, cannot be discovered. 
Amy had sent all her household except two or 



" KENILWORTH " 155 

three ladies to a fair at Abingdon. Their story 
was that, on returning, they found their mistress 
lying dead, with a broken neck, at the foot of a 
flight of stairs. She had suddenly left her ladies, 
who made no inquiries, and now she was dead. 
Elizabeth told an envoy of her ambassador at Paris 
that there had been " an attempt " at Cumnor Hall, 
but that none of Leicester's retainers was present. 
We know no more, but Mr. Froude, by a misun- 
derstanding of the evidence, made it seem almost 
impossible to doubt that Elizabeth had what could 
not be guiltless foreknowledge of the catastrophe. 
This is an error; this is not warranted by the evi- 
dence. The behaviour of Dudley, again, on re- 
ceiving the news of his wife's death, was that of 
an innocent man : he did all that he could to secure 
an investigation without favour. 

So the case stands, and Sir Walter might have 
avenged Mary Stuart by showing that Elizabeth 
was in no better position, as regards the death 
of Amy, than is Mary as regards the death of 
Darnley. But Scott rejected the temptation: he 
chose to say that Dudley's marriage was a secret, 
and unknown to Elizabeth, and by keeping Amy 
alive for many years after her death, he contrived 
a meeting between the unconscious rivals, the 
Queen and the bride, at the festivals of Kenilworth. 
Such is his audacious handling of the facts, and he 



156 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

has given Elizabeth a more dignified part than she 
was wont to play, where Leicester was concerned : 
he has made her a right royal lady. She is mag- 
nificent in the meeting with Amy, and in her chal- 
lenge of Leicester. The novel has thus always 
been a favourite in England, and there are even 
critics who put this romance based on bookwork 
before the best of all in which Scott delineates the 
manners best known to him, those of his own coun- 
trymen. Yet the novel is far better than many 
other critics admit. Amy is a spirited, lovely, and 
interesting heroine. Leicester is flattered, but the 
portrait is fine. The village humours, and the ruf- 
fianly soldier of fortune, Mike Lambourne, are 
very happily handled. Varney comes as near Iago 
in his resolute wickedness as it was in the power of 
Scott to go; and there is good in Flibbertigibbet, 
though we see too much of him ; and more good in 
Tony Fire the Faggot, though Tony's character, in 
real life, appears to have escaped censure : his epi- 
taph, at least, is alive to testify to that, though the 
rewards heaped by Leicester on the occupant of 
Cumnor Hall " do something smack." 



CHAPTER VI 

NOVELS, FINANCIAL RUIN, DEATH 

This period was the zenith of Scott's apparent 
prosperity. Five thousand guineas were given, 
or were to be given, by Constable for the remain- 
ing copyright of Ivanhoe, The Monastery, The 
Abbot, and Kenilworth. " Scott must have reck- 
oned on clearing £30,000 at least in the course 
of a couple of years, by the novels written within 
such a period," says Lockhart. Constable granted 
bills for four unnamed and unimagined " works of 
fiction," and they proved to be Peveril, Quentin 
Durward, St, Ronan's Well, and Redgauntlet. 
Scott's eldest son was now in an expensive cavalry 
regiment; his second son was preparing for the 
University, Abbotsford was growing in extent and 
expense, and Scott was keeping open house. Lock- 
hart, then living in the tiny neighbouring cottage of 
Chiefswood, was a man who did not suffer bores 
gladly, and he saw Abbotsford full of bores of all 
kinds — inquisitive foreigners, University prigs, 
condescending great people, and local lairds with 
their families. He reckoned that at least a sixth 

157 



158 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

of the peerage of England passed through Abbots- 
ford, and all the distinguished people of Scotland ! 
With these came obscure citizens of Edinburgh, 
old college mates and office mates of Scott: " These 
were welcome guests, let who might be under that 
roof," and Scott " contrived to make them all 
equally happy, with him, with themselves, and with 
each other." 

He was the genius of hospitality: he lavished 
his time on his guests, who had him with them for 
the whole of the day, except when he rode early 
to Chief swood and wrote The Pirate on a bureau 
which remains in the cottage. He seemed the 
idlest of men, while scores of essays, and letters not 
to be counted, in addition to the novels, flowed 
from his pen in the unbroken hours of early morn- 
ing. Only his extraordinary strength and buoyancy 
could enable him to be at once the most lavish host 
and the most prolific writer of his age, perhaps of 
any age. Merely to " refresh the machine " he 
was writing these admirable imitations of the cor- 
respondence of the sixteenth century which he 
called " Private Letters." They might have de- 
ceived the elect of Antiquarians, but they could not 
have been popular with the public, though one 
character was a bona roba, an unaccustomed appa- 
rition in Sir Walter's work. He threw the Letters 
aside, in his last days he fancied that he had fin- 



"THE BEACON" 159 

ished them, and that they were a valuable asset. 
In fact, he turned from them and began Nigel, a 
romance of the same period, apparently before he 
had brought The Pirate to a close. 

That " splendid romance," as Lockhart calls it, 
based on Scott's visit to the Orcades in 18 14, was 
published in December 1821. Though the fair 
and dark sisters, Minna and Brenda, were popular, 
and Cleveland himself had a vogue, the humours 
of the Udaler and of the agriculturist were not 
enjoyed, and Noma of the Fitful Head, a kind of 
civilized Ulrica, was never much appreciated. 

It is not necessary here to enter into the details 
about a luckless Tory newspaper, The Beacon, 
which had Scott's support, but was conducted in 
an amateur and bludgeonly fashion, in spite of his 
advice. There was nothing but blundering and 
bad language, and Scott declined to see the paper. 
Yet he was one of its early supporters, and there 
is evidence suggesting (I have not seen this evi- 
dence) that he was nearly involved in a duel, while 
his friend, Sir Alexander Boswell of Auchinleck, 
was unfortunately shot in an affair arising out of 
a successor to The Beacon. " I have kept Lock- 
hart out of this scrape, in which some of the young 
men are knee deep," writes Sir Walter. " I hope," 
he wrote to Lockhart, after Auchinleck's duel, 
" that this catastrophe will end the species of per- 



t6o SIR WALTER SCOTT 

sonal satire and abuse which has crept into our po- 
litical discussions. The lives of brave and good 
citizens were given them for other purposes than to 
mingle in such unworthy affrays." 

Nigel was published in May 1822, and Con- 
stable, who was in London, saw people reading it, 
in Macaulay's fashion, as they walked along the 
streets. The ship which carried the edition arrived 
on a Sunday, by Monday 7,000 copies had been 
dispersed. So Constable asked Scott to write a 
trifle, like the poem of Halidon Hall (for which 
he paid £1,000) every quarter: every poem to be 
on a battle. Lockhart thought that Constable's 
brain was " well nigh unsettled." Quite unsettled, 
if he expected the public to buy £4,000 worth of 
battle poetry every year, while the press was pro- 
ducing 30,000 volumes of Peveril of the Peak. 
Ballantyne's press was turning out at this date 145,- 
000 volumes of works by Scott, and Constable was 
about buying an estate called Balniel. Yet, all the 
while, the old £12,000, the price for a set of copy- 
rights, had not been and never was fully paid. 
There seems to have been the slenderest metallic 
basis for waggon loads of bills, which all concerned 
looked on as being as good as bullion. 

The Fortunes of Nigel (May 1822) was the 
last novel written by Scott before his labours pro- 
duced an ominous change in his health. It is, no 



"NIGEL" 161 

doubt, as Lockhart says, in the first rank of his ro- 
mances. The story is vecu: Scott had lived as 
long among the dramas, pamphlets, histories, and 
documents of the late Elizabethan and the Jaco- 
bean times, as in any part of our history, and his 
Scottish types of character he knew by heart. All 
that Jacobean comedy, mainly the play of Ben Jon- 
son, could tell him, he had fresh in his memory, or 
could " bring out with a wet finger." Hence the 
brilliance and vivacity of the street scenes, the ruf- 
flers in Alsatia, the scenes at Court, and at the or- 
dinary. He caught the moment when the heavy- 
hilted broad sword of the Scottish sire was becoming 
the long rapier of the Scottish son. In gentle King 
Jamie he had a model of which the grotesque ab- 
surdity needed pruning rather than exaggeration, 
and of all Scott's many portraits of Kings, the slob- 
bering trotting figure of James is the most truth- 
ful and the most comic. These moralists who 
denounce dissimulation and incontinence, Baby 
Charles and Steenie, are delicately touched : Ritchie 
Moniplies is a worthy pendant to Andrew Fairser- 
vice: the prentices are as excellent as the bullies 
and the old miser with his stern daughter in Alsa- 
tia: the whole life of Jacobean London is placed 
before us as vividly as the life of Georgian Edin- 
burgh in The Heart of Midlothian. The " hero," 
too, the unheroic hero, is, for once, a living and 



1 62 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

even realistic character. The ancestral Puritanism 
of Nigel degenerates into the cautious gambling 
of u The Sparrow Hawk," who plays with pren- 
tices for small sums, and takes care to leave off a 
winner. Nobody can deny that this is a natural 
metamorphosis, though the effect is to make us 
rather detest Nigel. He is supposed to throw off 
his mean vice, but he cannot be styled amiable. 
George Heriot is a better kind of man, and Ritchie 
is as superior to his master, morally, as Strap to 
Roderick Random. The young women of the tale, 
the pretty daughter of the goldsmith, and the mys- 
terious lady, do not distinguish themselves among 
Scott's young women. But the book is certainly 
in the foremost rank. 

The visit of George IV to Edinburgh, with the 
death of Erskine, slain by a calumny at which most 
men would have laughed, put a strain upon Scott, 
in July and August 1822, from which he never re- 
covered. The toil of organizing the reception of 
the first crowned King of England who had visited 
Scotland since 1650 fell upon Sir Walter. Scott 
was, in great part, the cause of the Royal visit, and 
his whole strength was given to organizing success. 
There was "a grand terry fication " (dramatiza- 
tion in the manner of Terry the actor) " of the 
Holyrood chapters in Waverley." The Highland- 
ers were much to the front, " all plaided and 



VISIT OF GEORGE IV 163 

plumed in their tartan array," and the fat white 
legs of George IV appeared under the once for- 
bidden philabeg. His Majesty, a man of vivid 
imagination, conceived himself to be a true Stuart, 
come to his own again; and Scott, himself in the 
Campbell tartan and trews, appears to have ac- 
cepted him in that romantic character. He himself 
was the Baron Bradwardine of the hour, and we 
know how the Baron sat down on a glass which 
had touched the lips of His Most Sacred Majesty, 
and cut himself rather badly. In the sultry weather 
he " had to arrange everything, from the ordering 
of a procession to the cut of a button," and he had 
also to amuse the perplexed old poet Crabbe, who 
seized on this frantic moment for a visit to a nation 
which he did not understand. 

In one light the visit of George was very well. 
It reconciled the furious feuds which had raged 
around The Beacon, and it was a proof that Scot- 
land, at last, was content with the Hanoverian in 
the disguise of the Stuart dynasty. The Highland 
chiefs were anxious about their precedence, which 
is said to have depended on the station occupied by 
each clan at Bannockburn, a point probably to be 
decided on the extremely diverse traditions of the 
clan bards or sennachies. Scott, aided by General 
Stewart of Garth, the historian of the Highland 
regiments, was the Montrose who brought harmony 



1 64 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

among the clans, no easy task where Glengarry 
and Clanranald were at odds about the chiefship 
of the Macdonalds, and Cluny and Mackintosh 
were not of one mind as to the headship of Clan 
Chattan. Be it remarked that, when in tartans, 
Scott wore the trews, not the philabeg. Glengarry, 
whether in the philabeg or not, rode in the proces- 
sion, followed by " Tail" pedestrians. The King, 
and Sir William Curtis, a stout dignitary of Lon- 
don town, both wore the Royal Stuart tartans, in- 
vented, it was said, for Prince Charles. No Stuart 
king, of course, had ever worn the Highland cos- 
tume, except in expeditions beyond the Highland 
line. These amusing pageantries were " making 
every brain dizzy but his own," when the death of 
Erskine, the mild, quiet, timid man who had been 
his dearest friend, fell upon Scott. 

The main results of " the right royal row," as 
Scott called it, were that, by his suggestion, the at- 
tainders of 17 15 and 1745 were redressed, and that 
Scott, pursued to Abbotsford by crowds of guests, 
appears to have suffered from a slight seizure of an 
apoplectic kind. " I have not been very well," he 
wrote to Terry in November, " a whoreson thick- 
ness of blood, and a depression of spirits arising 
from the loss of friends . . . have annoyed me 
much, and Peveril will, I fear, smell of the apo- 
plexy." This, says Lockhart, is the first allusion 



APOPLEXY 165 

to Sir Walter's fatal malady, the malady which had 
caused the death of his father. Lockhart suspected 
that he had sustained and concealed slight attacks 
of this nature. The machine was showing signs 
of overwork, which appear in the straggling Peveril 
of the Peak with its missed opportunities. Yet 
Quentin Durward was in progress in company with 
Peveril, and there is no smell of the apoplexy in 
that stirring tale, which made Scott's fortune in 
France. The pictures of Louis XI, of his strange 
funereal servitors, of the delightful Le Balafre, a 
pendant of Dugald Dalgetty, with the bustling 
events of the story, have won popularity, though 
the romance, at first, was received with little en- 
thusiasm. Perhaps this coldness, or a relapse into 
commonsense, made Constable announce that he 
would enter into no more bargains for books not 
only unchristened but unborn. The novels were 
appearing in uniform collected editions : the market 
was glutted. Scott thought of a set of dialogues 
on " superstitious " beliefs, such as telepathy, clair- 
voyance, and witchcraft, as an alternative to ro- 
mance. But the public was, by this time, solely 
devoted to fiction. Quentin Durward, too, began 
to sell in the old way, and Scott postponed his deal- 
ings with things 

On the margin grey 

'Twixt the soul's life and day. 



1 66 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Scott had written no novel of contemporary society 
since The Antiquary, and Laidlaw, on the Eildon 
hill above Melrose, suggested a romance of the lit- 
tle town, in the actual year, 1823. The hint re- 
sulted in St. Ronarfs Well (December 1823) ; the 
scene is not Melrose, but the Spa of Innerleithen 
on the upper Tweed. The plot of St. Ronan's 
Well was paralyzed by the prudery of James Bal- 
lantyne. A mischance on the part of the heroine 
was suppressed, to please James, consequently there 
is no reason in life for Clara's ruined brain, or for 
anything else that is essential to the progress and 
conclusion of the narrative. There is a similar 
error, caused by a remonstrance from Jeffrey, in 
Dombey and Son, where the conduct of Edith tow- 
ards Mr. Carker is inexplicable, as it is perfectly 
clear, from a passage which Dickens vainly tried 
to explain away, that Edith had been Mr. Carker's 
mistress. The third or fourth rate society of the 
Spa may be true to nature, but is neither convincing 
nor amusing, and Meg Dods cannot cover the mul- 
titude of sins of confusion in St. Ronan's Well. 
Miss Edgeworth wrote that the author of the last 
thirty pages of the book should be " carbonadoed," 
and, practically, James Ballantyne would have 
been the sufferer, for he was the only begetter of 
the " incredible and unaccountable conclusion." 
Meanwhile a very different romance, the last of 



" REDGAUNTLET " 167 

Scott's before ruin fell on him, was in progress, 
Redgauntlet. In Redgauntlet we may surely say 
that Scott has found himself again, at his best, or 
very nearly at his best. The form of narrative, 
partly told in letters, as by Richardson, is no longer 
popular, and we are not sorry when the author de- 
serts it. The plot of the story is rather baffling, 
and, as the tale goes on, we almost forget our curi- 
osity as to why Darsie Latimer should not go near 
the English border. The reason, when we do learn 
it, is far fetched, Darsie was not worth all that 
mechanism of intrigue. But the pictures of old 
Edinburgh life about 1763, of Scott's own father 
as the elder Fairford, with his good heart, and his 
" pernickety " ascetic lawyer's ways, is delightful. 
Peter Peebles, the litigant maddened by law and 
drink, is pathetic no less than humorous ; if the legal 
business appears dull, it is, none the less, or per- 
haps the more, Balzacian, supposing Balzac to have 
had the humour of Dumas. The Quakers are 
borrowed from what Scott saw, in boyhood, of a 
Quaker household at Kelso. Excellent is Geddes's 
nonresisting courage, and his shamefaced pride in 
his armorial bearings, the ged, or pike, the free- 
booter of fresh water. The scene of salmon spear- 
ing on the Solway flats is a description of a sport 
dear to Scott as pursued in a boat on Tweed. 
Things like huge snow-shoes were used in my boy- 



168 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

hood, the spearman stood erect above the water, 
one foot in each wooden shoe, he could spear a fish 
between them, and the exercise demanded much 
gift of balance, and a cool head, while the torches 
flared above the swift black running waters. Green- 
Mantle again recalls the Manteau Vert of Scott's 
youth. He borrowed the horse-shoe frown of old 
Redgauntlet from the face of the wicked witch, 
the sister of the Wizard, Major Weir, in the le- 
gend given by Sinclair, in " Satan's Invisible 
World Disclosed," and he also borrowed thence 
the name of the jackanapes in " Wandering Wil- 
lie's Tale." The scenes in the mysterious Red- 
gauntlet's cottage are as good romance as those 
in the Provost's house at Dumfries, with the story 
of " Pate in Peril " are good comedy. The broken- 
hearted Nanty Ewart is full of an original pathos 
not common in Scott; his story of his own life of 
miserable adventure, with the foreknowledge of 
his doom, is a masterpiece, and as a masterpiece 
" the fallen and faded Ascanius " of the tale, 
Prince Charles, the battered stately wanderer, with 
the despotic mistress, was universally accepted. 

There is evidence that the Prince really did pur- 
sue his fleeting vision of a crown into England, in 
1763, and was actually seen by Murray, the actor, 
a friend of Scott's, then a boy. When the Prince 
was in England, in disguise, there is always a com- 



" REDGAUNTLET " 169 

plete break in his correspondence, and I find such 
a gap at this period. He still had a few adherents, 
and would stray across the Channel to see and 
frighten them, and slip back again to his hermit 
life at Bouillon. Miss Walkinshaw, the original 
of the lady who accompanies him in the tale, had 
forsaken him at the date of the romance, and she 
was not a fair but a dark beauty. There is a 
mournful grace in Charles' last good-bye to the 
few Jacobite gentry who surround him in the 
novel when " there wac an end of an auld song." 
The romance " contains perhaps more of the au- 
thor's personal experiences than any other, or even 
than all of them put together." As for " Wander- 
ing Willie's Tale," the corrections and admirable 
additions in the proof sheets show p. 1 18 that this 
chef d'oeuvre, unlike " the rest of them," was 
written with all the care that it deserved. If it 
has anything to be called a rival, that rival is Mr. 
Stevenson's story of about the same period, in the 
latest dusk of the day of the Covenant, Thrawn 
Janet. But there is no rivalry — Scott's legend is 
unapproachable. 

There was but this one novel in 1824; if Scott's 
advisers concealed from him the relative slackness 
of his sales, they did not hesitate to warn him 
against " over-cropping." He wrote his tribute to 
Byron, on the news of the poet's death, and he 



170 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

worked at a new edition of his Swift. As a Di- 
rector of the Edinburgh Academy, founded in this 
year, Scott remarked that he did not love his coun- 
try better than truth, and that Dr. Johnson was not 
wholly wrong when he said that, in learning, 
" every Scot had a mouthful and none had a belly- 
ful." Boys were now to learn Greek earlier, and 
to learn more Greek than in his own days at the 
High School. In fact the new school has produced 
some Grecians of merit and distinction in its eighty 
years of existence. Scott did not tell the boys that 
of Greek he had less than Shakespeare, and he de- 
spised the contemptible clamour over his own fa- 
mous brace of false quantities in the two elegiac 
lines for the epitaph of his deerhound Maida. 
One of the false quantities, after all, was the fault 
of a transcriber who wrote " jaces " in place of 
" dormis " ; that transcriber was James Ballan- 
tyne. " We could have written as good longs and 
shorts as the English, if it had not been for the 
— Covenant," an old gentleman used to say, but 
Porson opened Buchanan on a false quantity, 
and surely Dr. Pitcairn erred when he began his 
famous epitaph on Dundee (admirably Englished 
into poetry by Dryden) — " Ultime Scotorum" 
Yet he could hardly write Ultime Pictorum, and 
so save his prosody at the expense of his eth- 
nology. 



THE FIRST AND LAST BALL 171 

" Surely if Sir Walter Scott be not a happy man, 
which he seems truly to be, he deserves to be so," 
wrote Basil Hall at Abbotsford in the Christmas 
of 1824. January 7, 1825, saw " the first regular 
ball given at Abbotsford — and the last." As in 
Marmion, 

It was his blithest and his last. 

The occasion of the festivity was the wedding of 
Scott's eldest son, a young cavalry officer " of strict 
and even severe principles," to a Miss Jobson, of 
Lochore, " with a fortune of £50,000 in land." 
The name of Jobson is neither suggestive of wealth 
nor of heraldic additions to the quarterings of the 
Scotts. Sir Walter speaks of his daughter-in-law 
with unconcealed affection; she was a pretty, shy, 
candid, innocent girl, in the manner of Rose Brad- 
wardine. The lovers lately wed crossed to Ireland, 
where the Regiment was quartered, and whither 
Scott himself went for a holiday later in 1825. 
Scott now backed the credit of his friend, the actor 
manager Terry, for £1,250, plus £500 guaranteed 
by James Ballantyne. Whoever lends a friend 
money for the purposes of his business is absolutely 
certain to see no more of the coins, and to lend 
Terry money, Terry being a manager and lessee of 
a theatre, was laying the longest possible odds on 
a hopeless horse. Like Steenie denouncing incon- 



172 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

tinence, and Baby Charles reproving dissimulation, 
Scott read Terry a lecture against raising money 
by bills and discounts, a ruinous system, he de- 
clared, very wisely, which was assiduously practised 
by Constable, and Ballantyne & Co. 

Constable now had a new project, which Lock- 
hart describes with infinite humour. We have 
mentioned evidence given before a Parliamentary 
Commission, to the effect that libraries ceased to 
be formed about the time when Waverley appeared 
(1814). The same evidence showed that real 
books had never prospered since cheap little vol- 
umes of boiled down information, the tinned meats 
of the intellectual life, were introduced. It was 
Constable who now introduced them. He came 
out to Abbots ford enormously big with a project. 
He unloaded himself of a packet, the annual sched- 
ule of assessed taxes. From the items of taxes paid 
on many things which profit not, such as hair pow- 
der, he inferred, justly, that the British public spent 
money on every thing conceivable, except books. 
Hundreds of thousands of people had obviously 
plenty of money, and in the article of books alone 
did they economize. Scott remarked that all down 
Tweed were the houses of lairds of whom none 
spent £10 yearly on literature. Of course they did 
not, and of course they do not, and never will. 
One extravagance our countrymen and country- 



" NAPOLEON" 173 

women avoid, as they would the devil, and that is 
buying a book. They are like the Highland 
crofter who was implored to give at least five shil- 
lings to the " Sustentation Fund," and for the sal- 
vation of his immortal part. " Me give five shil- 
lings to save my soul ! I haena five shillings to buy 
mysel' tobacco ! " 

Constable admitted that the gentry were content 
with a magazine, and, at most, a subscription to a 
circulating library. But he would produce books 
so cheap and good that even the gentry would buy 
them. To the sanguine soul of the projector this 
seemed a splendid speculation, though even he did 
not think of sinking to a sixpenny price. Monthly 
volumes at half-a-crown or three-and-sixpence were 
in his eye, as if the public could afford to give 
nearly forty shillings annually for books. The 
public " has not time," setting the pecuniary ex- 
travagance aside, to read twelve volumes yearly. 
However Scott accepted the golden dream, and 
proposed a short Life of Napoleon. It grew into 
ten tomes of Constable's Miscellany, and was 
mainly written after Sir Walter's ruin, in eighteen 
months. A critic mentions a dozen people then 
alive in England, including Carlyle, who could 
have done a better Life of Napoleon. Perhaps 
they could have done it, " if they had the mind," 
but certainly they could not have done it better 



174 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

than Scott, in eighteen months. Constable pro- 
vided about a hundred volumes of he Moniteur, 
and quantities of printed works, as materials, while 
MSS. were collected. But no Life written at that 
time could be satisfactory; most documents were 
inaccessible, and Scott made great use of second- 
hand authorities. Though the book won £18,000 
for Sir Walter's creditors, and though it is very 
readable, the task work (and few forms of drudg- 
ery are so tedious as history writing in a hurry) did 
not suit Scott, and adds nothing to his reputa- 
tion. 

Meanwhile he wrote The Betrothed, which Bal- 
lantyne discouraged, and The Talisman, a work 
as pleasing to boyhood as Ivanhoe. We all have 
been fond of Coeur de Lion, and hated Conrad de 
Montserrat, and adored Saladin. The book was 
amazingly popular, and Woodstock was under- 
taken next, and finished when the evil days began. 
Scott now made a pleasant tour in Ireland, and 
visited Wordsworth on his homeward way. The 
two poets eternally quoted the Bard of Rydal, but 
not the most distant allusion was made by either, 
says Lockhart, to the verses of the Minstrel of the 
Forest. On returning to Abbotsford it was a sad 
sight for Lockhart to see Sir Walter " read, note, 
and index with the pertinacity of some pale com- 
piler in the British Museum," for the Napoleon, 



RUIN 175 

and rising from his toil, " not radiant and buoy- 
ant," but with an aching brow and weary eyes. 
Lockhart himself was leaving Scotland for Lon- 
don, and the editorial chair of The Quarterly 
Review. The shadows were thickening in the 
prison house, and the health of Scott's grandson, 
Lockhart's son, was of all the shadows the deepest. 
There were to be no more happy summers in the 
cottage of Chiefswood — the scene, many years 
later, of happiness cujus pars fui. In November 
1825, Lockhart, in London, wrote a long letter to 
Scott on rumours unfavourable to Constable's sol- 
vency. He anticipated nothing worse for Scott 
than the loss of the price of Woodstock. Return- 
ing to Chiefswood, he received a letter of warning, 
and showed it to Scott, who made a night journey 
to see Constable, who reassured him. Lockhart 
now suspected that Scott was deeply concerned in 
his publisher's affairs. On November 20 Scott 
began his famous Journal, now published in full. 
On December 22 he wrote Bonny Dundee, new 
words to an old tune, accompanying ribald words, 
in which the town, not the Viscount of Dundee, 
is " bonny." " I wonder if the verses are good," 
Scott notes, and laments poor Will Erskine — 
" thou couldst and wouldst have told me." The 
song is his latest and not least splendid tribute to 
Claverhouse, and rings across the Empire with its 



iy6 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

" cavalry canter." On Christmas Day Scott wrote, 
" I have a particular call for gratitude." " Thus 
does Fortune banter us." The earliest notes of 
1826 show Scott already anxious about the money 
affairs of Ballantyne and Constable. They also 
(January 5) show him "much alarmed" by a 
sudden attack of agraphia, impotence to write the 
words he would. He explained this as the result 
of an anodyne, for his old complaint had returned 
with its cruel agonies. On January 11 there is 
" anxious botheration about the money market." 
On January 14 there comes a mysterious letter 
from Constable, then in London, where he made 
to Lockhart wild proposals for advances of huge 
sums by Scott. On January 16, in Edinburgh, the 
blow fell. " Hurst and Robinson let a bill come 
back upon Constable." Nevertheless Scott dined 
with Mr. Skene of Rubislaw, whose little daughter, 
recently dead at a great age, regretted by all who 
knew her, was a child friend and consoler of Sir 
Walter. Next day came James Ballantyne " with 
a face as black as the crook " : Ballantyne & Co. 
must suspend payment. Scott at once consulted 
Mr. John Gibson, W.S., and, as he would not con- 
sent to be made bankrupt, his affairs were put under 
trustees, acting for the creditors. If bankrupt, his 
financial position would improve, his future gains 
would be his own. But he at once braced himself 



THE BALLANTYNE FIRM 177 

to pay off everybody, pledging brain and life to 
that colossal task. He did not as yet know the full 
extent of his losses. 

By the admission of one of Ballantyne's trus- 
tees, the books of the firm, eleven years later, were 
still unbalanced. Into the affair of the bills and 
counter bills between Ballantyne and Constable, 
whereby, according to Lockhart, Scott's business 
debts were doubled, it is not possible to go in this 
place. Ballantyne's representatives regarded the 
whole story as the result of a confusion in the mind 
of Lockhart. But Lockhart's source was Mr. 
Cadell, the partner of Constable, and Mr. Cadell, 
in 1837, stood by his guns, and sent confirma- 
tory documents. " John Ballantyne suggested the 
double bills ! " 1 Scott never blamed James Ballan- 
tyne, who owed to him, he said, his difficulties in 
the present as well as his prosperity in the past. 
But the books of the firm were never balanced ! 
Without balance-sheets, and there were none, how 
could Scott know the amount of his liabilities? 
But, again, why did he not extort accounts from 
the lazy James ? Lockhart himself meted out the 
blame to all concerned, as far as his knowledge, 
instructed by Mr. Cadell, enabled him to do. He 
was blamed by the Press for making precisely the 
statements which he never made. Scott, to his 

1 Life of Lockhart, ii. pp. 146-150. 



1 78 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

own loss, insisted on employing James Ballantyne 
alone as his printer after 1826. But he transferred 
his publishing business from Constable to Cadell, 
with good reason. Constable " was all spectral to- 
gether." As late as 1851 Lockhart wrote that 
" the details of Scott's commercial perplexities re- 
main in great measure inexplicable." Scott himself 
(January 29) writes: " Constable's business seems 
unintelligible . . . neither stock nor debt to show. 
No doubt trading almost entirely on accommoda- 
tion is dreadfully expensive." So Scott had just 
warned Terry ! 

From his old rival, Sir William Forbes, from 
the Royal Bank, from an unknown person, offer- 
ing £30,000, Scott had many proffers of assistance. 
But he took the whole debt, £117,000, on his own 
shoulders, he borrowed from no man, he lived re- 
tired, and worked at Woodstock steadily through- 
out the days which brought Job's messengers of 
ruin. " I experience a sort of determined pleas- 
ure," he said to Skene, " in confronting the very 
worst aspect of this sudden reverse. . . ." His 
mind was free from the awful apprehension caused 
by his attack of agraphia. " Few have more rea- 
son to feel grateful to the Disposer of all than I 
have." Any spleen which Scott may have felt, he 
worked off in Malachi Mala grow therms Letters, a 
criticism of an effort made by his own party to 



"WOODSTOCK' 1 179 

dethrone the Scot's one pound note, the Palladium 
of the ancient kingdom. 

On March 15 Scott left his house in Castle 
Street for the last time. Ha til mi tulidh — " I 
return no more!" The words are those of the 
lament of Macleod's second-sighted piper, foresee- 
ing his own fall in The Rout of Moy (1746) . At 
Abbotsford he finished Woodstock on March 26. 
The book sold for £8,228, a first instalment of the 
Sisyphean task of payment. 

Tastes differ, but to myself Woodstock seems 
to possess great merits. Considering the circum- 
stances in which it was written, it is a wonderful 
book. Cromwell is not the conventional hypocrite 
of the then current estimate : he is a religious man, 
something of a mystic, involved in politics, and dis- 
playing the habitual " Jesuitry " of political re- 
ligious men. Wildrake is a tipsy cavalier of the 
best, and of the best in his song for King Charles. 
The various Puritan officers, and their various con- 
duct in face of the poltergeist, or noisy devil of 
Woodstock, are excellently discriminated. Scott 
never could remember where he read that " Funny 
Joe of Oxford " confessed to being the poltergeist, 
nor have I been able to discover his source. My 
earliest trace of the explanation is in Joseph Tay- 
lor's Apparitions (1815, Second Edition) . Taylor 
gives us Funny Joe Collins, his pulvis fulminans, 



180 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

and all the rest of it, almost in the same words as 
Scott's, who must have possessed Taylor's book. 
But who goes bail for Funny Joe? If he did make 
a confession, how did it escape Dr. Plot, whose 
Natural History of Oxfordshire is one of Scott's 
authorities? What Joe Collins may or may not 
have said is not evidence, but what does common 
sense care for evidence, when an explanation is 
wanted? 

The plot of Woodstock was unconsciously an- 
nexed by Thackeray in Esmond. His charming 
but historically absurd James III is Charles II, 
laughing and running after every girl, and making 
love to the sister and mistress of the two good Roy- 
alists who protect him. Lockwood and his sweet- 
heart, in Esmond, are Jocelyn and his sweetheart 
in Woodstock. James III is a more favoured lover 
than his uncle, and Beatrix outshines all the women 
of Scott, but Scott's is the invention of the situa- 
tion, down to the King's offer of a duel. It is an 
astonishing case of unconscious appropriation — 
and improvement at the expense of the character 
of James, " the best of kings and men," but the 
least humorous. I profess myself an admirer of 
Trusty Tompkins, that unworthy Independent; of 
Corporal Humgudgeon; of the noble Sir Henry 
Lee; and of his hound Bevis; of Wildrake, of the 
mise en scene, of Cromwell, in short of Woodstock 



HEALTH OF LADY SCOTT 181 

in general. But these opinions are the accidents 
of personal likings, beyond which criticism, how- 
ever it may disguise them, never finds it easy 
to go. 

Scott now began The Chronicles of the Canon- 
gate, with Cadell for publisher. Constable was 
" spectral " : he had tried to borrow large sums 
from Scott, " after all chance of recovery was 
over," says Lockhart. But to the sanguine Con- 
stable it could not seem that all chance was over. 
Long ago he had bought Hunter out of his business 
at a vast over-estimate, from which he never re- 
covered. To act thus was in his nature; we must 
not suppose him to have been in any degree dis- 
honest. The Chronicles and Napoleon now went 
on together, while (May 2) Scott " almost de- 
spaired " of his wife's recovery from illness. 
" Still she welcomes me with a smile, and insists 
she is better." She could not take leave of him, 
when he was obliged to leave Abbotsford for dingy 
lodgings in Edinburgh. On May 15 he heard of 
the death of Lady Scott. " I am deprived of the 
sharer of my thoughts and counsels. . . . She is 
sentient and conscious of my emotions somewhere 
— somehow; where , we cannot tell, how, we cannot 
tell ; yet I would not at this moment resign the mys- 
terious yet certain hope that I shall see her in a 
better world, for all that this world can give me." 



1 82 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

He writes of his lonely study: " Poor Charlotte 
would have been in the room half a score of times 
to see if the fire burned, and ask a hundred kind 
questions." Such were the relations of husband 
and wife. He turned to his story of The High- 
land Widow: there was " no rest for Sir Walter." 
" I will not be dethroned by any rebellious passion 
that raises its standard against me." 

Scott visited London and Paris, partly in the in- 
terests of his Napoleon. In February 1827, at a 
dinner to William Murray, the actor, he acknowl- 
edged what could no longer be concealed, his au- 
thorship of the novels. By June 10, 1827, the 
" millstone " of Napoleon was off his back. He 
and his amanuensis had been used to work from six 
in the morning to six in the evening, without inter- 
ruption except for meals. No doubt there might 
have been better historians of the world's greatest 
genius, but who else would have worked a twelve 
hours' day — and all for the sake of duty and hon- 
our? Lockhart computes that twelve months were 
occupied in the writing. Between the end of 1825 
and the June of 1827, Scott had written off £28,- 
000 of his debts. To wipe them out, not to pro- 
duce an impeccable biography, was his aim, it must 
be admitted, but we must remember that his gen- 
eral health was now very bad, with insomnia and 
severe headaches. 



GOURGAUD 183 

August 1827 brought news that General Gour- 
gaud was indignant about Scott's remarks on him 
in his Napoleon. Scott had told what he found in 
our State Papers: " I should have been a shameful 
coward if I had shunned using them." Gourgaud 
had already fought Segur, the brilliant historian of 
the Moscow expedition. It may be that Gour- 
gaud's information given to the English Govern- 
ment, about Napoleon in St. Helena, was a 
"blind," not a betrayal: one does not suspect his 
loyalty. Scott rejected this excuse, as convicting 
Gourgaud of falsehood, " when giving evidence 
upon his word of honour." Scott was ready to give 
him a meeting: chose his old friend, Clerk, as his 
second, and saw that Napoleon's own pistols, which 
he possessed, were in order. " I will not baulk 
him, Jackie ! He shall not dishonour the country 
through my sides, I can assure him." " The cour- 
age of bards," according to a Gaelic proverb, is a 
minus quantity. Scott was not to justify the prov- 
erb : if he did not fight, he said, he would " die the 
death of a poisoned rat in a hole, out of mere sense 
of my own degradation." 

Mr. Hutton is severe on Scott for this unchris- 
tian conduct. Probably, at the same date, and in 
similar circumstances, Mr. Hutton would have 
been found " on the sod." The ideas of the age 
made fighting unavoidable, and, as for the sin, 



i8 4 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Scott would rather trust his soul with God than 
his honour to men, as Jeanne d'Arc said, after leap- 
ing from her prison tower, that she would rather 
commit her soul to God than her honour to the 
English. Gourgaud made " a fiery rejoinder " to 
Scott's plain and invincible statement of his case. 
Scott did not reply in any way, he did not challenge 
Gourgaud, who himself had chivalry enough, or 
good sense enough, to send no cartel. In fact one 
does not see how he could escape from his dilemma. 
He had betrayed his master, or he had been guilty 
of a dubious stratagem. 

Scott thought of taking sanctuary in Holyrood 
precincts from, not Gourgaud, but a Hebrew credi- 
tor named Abud, who insisted on receiving at once 
the full measure of his due. Sir William Forbes 
settled the affair privately, and Scott did not need 
to dwell where his hero, Croftangry, abides, in The 
Chronicles of the Canongate, now published. The 
autobiographical part, in Croftangry, is as excel- 
lent as it is melancholy. The book was well re- 
ceived, and The Fair Maid of Perth, the last of 
his good novels, was begun. The pictures of bur- 
gess life, and of the distracted Court, are excellent. 
Poor Oliver Proudfute is a good comic character 
with a tragic end. The fighting Smith, with his 
love of poetry and romance, is a most original and 
sympathetic person, and Simon the Glover is as 



"THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH" 185 

good as a father, citizen, and friend, as Sir Patrick 
Charteris is in the quality of knightly Provost. 
The Fair Maid, when she deigns to be natural, is 
very natural indeed; the Clan fight is one of the 
best in fiction, and in Conachar, who " has drunk 
the milk of the white doe," his foster mother, Scott 
expiates his extreme harshness to a ne'er-do-well 
brother, who had shown the white feather in the 
West Indies. This harshness he bitterly repented. 
With the terrible true story of the Duke of Rothe- 
say's doom, with Ramorny and Bonthron and 
Dwining for villains, with the studies of the good 
helpless Roi Faineant, Albany, Douglas, and poor 
Louise, and with the scene of the chief's funeral, 
The Fair Maid of Perth abounds in merits, pressed 
down and running over. Even Father Clement 
(whom Scott does not quite like), with the fanati- 
cism that attended the Reformation from the first, 
and with a touch of "Jesuitry," is well drawn, and 
how excellent is the Glover's account of what he 
liked in the Father's sermons, his denunciations of 
the rabble and the nobles, and his appreciation of 
the Scottish middle class — absurdly said to have 
been a creation of John Knox. Commerce, not re- 
ligion, made the burghs and the burghers, who 
liked to listen to Father Clement, " proving, as 
it seemed to me, that the sole virtue of our com- 
monweal, its strength, and its estimation, lay among 



1 86 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

the burgher craft of the better class, which I re- 
ceived as comfortable doctrine, and creditable to 
the town." 

Scott ends with commendations of Father Clem- 
ent, but he liked the man no more than he says 
that Simon Glover did. As a politician, he was 
even unscrupulously opposed to Catholics, as being 
under priestly dominion no less than the Cove- 
nanters were under preachers' dominion. He would 
have no imperium in imperio. But, in his novels, 
the old faith is spoken of so tenderly that George 
Borrow frequently and intemperately accuses him 
of betraying souls to the 

Lady in Babylon bred, 
Addicted to flirting and dressing in red. 

He regarded our victory at Navarino as very well, 
but our policy as on the level of what that of the 
Turks would have been, had they sent a plenipoten- 
tiary to regulate our behaviour towards the Irish 
Catholics. 

The December of 1827 saw the publication of 
the tiny square volumes of The Tales of a Grand- 
father, addressed to Lockhart's son, " Master 
Hugh Littlejohn." They had an appropriate re- 
sult: the small boy dirked his brother (not seri- 
ously) with a pair of scissors, and requested Scott 




Sir Walter Scott. 

After a painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence. 



" TALES OF A GRANDFATHER " 187 

to write no more about Civilization, " he dislikes 
it extremely." One remembers how tiresome were 
the chapters on Civilization, except that on the 
Feudal System. Of the little that the world used 
to know about Scottish history, three-quarters were 
learned from The Tales of a Grandfather. Neces- 
sarily much more " scientific " information has 
since been acquired, and Mr. Fraser Tytler's His- 
tory is a monument of impartial industry. But 
Scott, as impartial as Tytler, gives us the cream 
of the anecdotes and semi-historical legends, which 
are what everybody ought to know. He does not 
disdain the garrulous Pitscottie, and the lively me- 
moirs of Sir James Melville, these pillars of " his- 
tory, as she is wrote," and ought not, scientifically 
speaking, to be written any longer. 

Yet there are senses in which The Tales of a 
Grandfather are scientifically composed. There is 
little science in writing books so dull that no mortal 
can read them, and this reef ahead of the modern 
pedant Scott successfully avoids. He lets " the 
violet of a legend blow " in periods of the utmost 
aridity, he " loads every reef," however granitic, 
with the gold of every anecdote that reveals the 
character of individuals or of the time. If a scrap 
of ballad illustrates his topic, he has that scrap in 
his wallet. Thus the great Montrose fought for 
a sacred cause, the wretched Lord Lewis Gordon, 



1 88 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

an unworthy leader of a clan of soldiers, fought 
from caprice. The ballad verse runs, 

If you with Lord Lewis go, 

You'll get reif and prey enough, 

If you with Montrose go, 

You'll get grief and wae enough — 



hard won victories and forced marches. Scott's 
treatment of that battlefield of rival sentimental- 
ists, Kirk and Cavalier — the time of the Civil War 
and the Restoration — is marked by lucidity, con- 
ciseness, and impartiality. Any boy of ten can 
understand it if he pleases, and the writer flatters 
neither Presbyterian nor King's man. 

I quote what he says about the surrender of 
the King to the English by the Scots at Newcastle. 
The position of the Scots Commissioners was per- 
plexing, whether they deliberately lured Charles to 
come to them or not. They could not keep him in 
Scotland: they would have had to fight England, 
and to defy the preachers who rode them. They 
could not safely let Charles embark secretly at 
Tynemouth, as Sir Walter suggests: the prospect 
of a King over the water was agreeable neither to 
the English nor to the Covenanters. But, says 
Scott, " Even if the Scots had determined that the 
exigencies of the times, and the necessity of pre- 



" TRAITOR SCOT" 189 

serving the peace betwixt England and Scotland, 
together with their engagements with the Parlia- 
ment of England, demanded that they should sur- 
render the person of their King to that body, the 
honour of Scotland was intimately concerned in so 
conducting the transaction that there should be no 
room for alleging that any selfish advantage was 
stipulated by the Scots as a consequence of giving 
him up. I am almost ashamed to write that this 
honourable consideration had no weight. 

" The Scottish army had a long arrear of pay 
due to them from the English Parliament, which 
the latter had refused, or at least delayed to make 
forthcoming. A treaty for the settlement of these 
arrears had been set on foot ; and it had been agreed 
that the Scottish forces should retreat into their 
own country, upon payment of two hundred thou- 
sand pounds, which was one half of the debt finally 
admitted. Now, it is true that these two treaties, 
concerning the delivery of the King's person to 
England and the payment by Parliament of their 
pecuniary arrears to Scotland, were kept separate, 
for the sake of decency; but it is certain that they 
not only coincided in point of time, but bore upon 
and influenced each other. No man of candour 
will pretend to believe that the Parliament of Eng- 
land would ever have paid this considerable sum, 
unless to facilitate their obtaining possession of the 



i 9 o SIR WALTER SCOTT 

King's person ; and this sordid and base transaction, 
though the work exclusively of a mercenary army, 
stamped the whole nation of Scotland with infamy. 
In foreign countries they were upbraided with the 
shame of having made their unfortunate and con- 
fiding Sovereign a hostage, whose liberty or sur- 
render was to depend on their obtaining payment 
of a paltry sum of arrears; and the English nation 
reproached them with their greed and treachery, 
in the popular rhyme, — 

Traitor Scot 

Sold his king for a groat. 

" The Scottish army surrendered the person of 
Charles to the Commissioners for the English Par- 
liament, on receiving security for their arrears of 
pay, and immediately evacuated Newcastle, and 
marched for their own country. I am sorry to con- 
clude the volume with this mercenary and dishon- 
ourable transaction; but the limits of the work re- 
quire me to bring it thus to a close." 

By their Covenant, as interpreted by their 
preachers, the Scots had brought themselves to this 
pass, and the only course open to them which was 
not conspicuously base they did not take. A na- 
tion is judged by the rulers whom it accepts, and 
though not a man in a hundred, north of Tweed, 



" TALES OF A GRANDFATHER " 191 

approved the course (so a contemporary tells us), 
" the whole nation of Scotland was stamped with 
infamy." Scott does not prefer Scotland to truth, 
but he does misrepresent, by defect of information, 
the effectual cause of Argyll's death. He did not 
die merely because he expressed, in letters to 
Monk, " a zeal for the English interest." He gave 
information as to the movements of the forces that 
stood for his King, and were commanded by his 
own son. Writing for the instruction of the young 
Scott laid aside all Cavalier sentiment and preju- 
dice ; in the opinion of M. Amedee Pichot, he wrote 
as a Whig. But the Whigamores have never wel- 
comed him as an ally. Even to-day a student who 
" has no time " cannot gain so rapid and so correct 
a view of Scottish history from any book as he will 
find in The Tales of a Grandfather. 

Sir Walter's next task was the Magnum Opus, 
the preparation of a literary history of the work 
of his life, especially of the novels and poems. 
That history took the shape, not wholly fortunate, 
of new Introductions and new notes. They are of 
the most genial interest, but perhaps it would have 
been wiser to write the literary history in separate 
volumes, than to clog the Authors' Favourite Edi- 
tion with so much prefatory matter that the mod- 
ern reader is frightened away, believing that he will 
never survive to read the romance in each case. 



192 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

The format and typography of the volumes were 
excellent, the plates were not better than most illus- 
trations and rather worse than some. Cadell had 
bought in the copyright at £8,500 on the luckiest of 
days for Sir Walter's creditors. Now it was that 
Scott, having no money to give to a Reverend Mr. 
Gordon, gave him the copyright of two sermons 
which he had already written for him, at a moment 
when he feared that Gordon was too ill and nervous 
to write sermons for himself. Gordon sold the 
copyright for £250. Scott disliked appearing as a 
lay preacher, but good nature carried the day. He 
would not, however, again oblige James Ballan- 
tyne, who pleaded for the life of Oliver Proudfute, 
in The Fair Maid of Perth. To please James he 
had ruined St. RonarCs Well, he had brought back 
Athelstane in Ivanhoe from the dead, and that was 
enough, and more than enough. 

The year 1829 saw the completion of Anne 
of Geierstein, but as the author of Anne's being 
frankly damned her, I am not inclined to plead in 
her favour, leaving her advocacy to Mr. Saints- 
bury, who places Anne "ona level with anything 
and above most things later than The Pirate" 
To deem Anne on a level with Redgauntlet, or 
even with Woodstock, and The Fair Maid of 
Perth, seems, in Lethington's words, " a devout 
imagination." My friend, Mr. Saintsbury, in- 



THE " JOURNAL " 193 

deed speaks here of Anne " as a mere romance,' , 
not counting " the personal touches which exalt 
Redgauntlet and the Introduction to the Chron- 
icles." But what is there in Anne that comes home 
to us like Nanty Ewart, Wandering Willie, and 
Peter Peebles ? No Scot can doubt that Sir Wal- 
ter is at his best in the bounds of " his ain coun- 
trie," this was an inevitable limitation of his 
genius. 

The Journal of the early months of 1829 shows 
Scott in good spirits, pleased with solitude, when 
he is alone, but only if solitude does not mean lack 
of access to human company. In a little sportive 
dialogue with a Geni, or Djinn, he confesses to all 
his old delight in building castles in the air. " You 
need not repent/' says the Djinn, " most of your 
novels have previously been subjects for airy 
castles." This means that, rapidly as the novels 
were written, they, or many of them, had long 
simmered in the author's imagination: he had 
lived, he remarks, in the scenes and adventures 
which he describes. Among other things, he now 
wrote, for Croker's BoswelVs Johnson, notes on 
the great Doctor's Scottish tour. Busy as Sir 
Walter was, his time and work were still at the 
disposal of others. But some of these invaluable 
notes went astray in the post, and never were 
recovered. He wrote a short History of Scotland, 



i 9 4 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

for the Encyclopaedia of Thackeray's victim, 
Dr. Lardner, and a review article to raise a sum 
of money for the ever unlucky Gillies, who visited 
Abbotsford in autumn, and noted one convenience 
" very rare," he says, in country houses. In every 
room was abundance of pen, ink, and paper. 

In Edinburgh, at the levee of the Commissioner 
to the General Assembly, Scott met Edward Ir- 
ving. " I could hardly keep my eyes off him while 
we were at table. He put me in mind of the devil 
disguised as an angel of light, so ill did that hor- 
rible obliquity of vision harmonize with the dark 
tranquil features of his face, resembling that of 
our Saviour in Italian pictures, with the hair care- 
fully arranged in the same manner. . . . He 
spoke with that kind of unction which is nearly 
allied to cajolerie. . . ." In fact Scott liked 
Irving no more than he liked Father Clement. 
He had a great distrust of " enthusiasm " in relig- 
ion, but Irving was not the quack whom Scott 
clearly suspected him of being. Other quacks, in 
his opinion, were the two brothers, then calling 
themselves " Hay Allan," but later, " John and 
Charles Stuart," sons of a son of Prince Charles 
by his wife. These gentlemen possessed a MS. 
called Vestiarium Scoticum, giving an account of 
the tartans of the Border as well as of the High- 
land clans, tartans otherwise unknown. There 



PARALYSIS 195 

were two MSS., one, never seen of men, of the 
sixteenth century, another, still extant, of the 
eighteenth century. This MS. remains a mystery. 
I believe that neither in ink nor paper is there any 
trace of falsity, while the style is certainly beyond 
the powers of imitation possessed by the two broth- 
ers, in whose antiquarian probity Scott had no 
belief. 

Scott's friends were dying around him, Short- 
reed of the Liddesdale rambles, and Tom Purdie. 
Haec poena diu viventibus! His Diary flags in 
July, and is not reopened till May 1830. Scott 
read and reviewed that thrilling book, Pitcairn's 
Criminal Trials. It was published by the Banna- 
tyne Club, of which Scott was the animating spirit ; 
for the Roxburghe Club he edited and presented 
the story of the Master of Sinclair, and his slaying 
of the Shaws of Greenock (1708). He drama- 
tized the tale, from Pitcairn, of the Auchendrane 
Tragedy, the series of murders by the two Mures. 
There is much of spirit, fancy, and vigorous verse 
in The Ayrshire Tragedy, but the topic inevitably 
lacked dramatic interest. 

It was on February 15, 1831, that the long 
threatened blow of paralysis fell on Sir Walter. 
He was alone, with a lady, examining her father's 
manuscripts, when his face altered, he fell into a 
chair, but with the instinct of courtesy, contrived 



196 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

to stagger from the room and fell in the drawing- 
room, where his daughter Anne and Lockhart's 
sister, Violet, happened to be. 1 He presently 
recovered speech, and, when he went abroad again, 
people observed no change. But he knew his own 
case. None the less, he toiled on at his Letters on 
Demonology, a work well worth reading, though 
marked by failing powers. That astonishing 
person, Professor Wilson, instantly attacked Scott, 
making the Shepherd in Noctes Ambrosianae 
speak of " Sir Walter wi' his everlasting anec- 
dotes, nine out o' ten meaning naething, and the 
tenth itseP as auld as Eildon Hill." Wilson also 
assailed the Letters : there was a great deal of Mr. 
Hyde in his composition, an element which broke 
out in furious attacks on old friends. Yet he never 
estranged Lockhart. 

Scott declared that he felt no mental feebleness, 
and hoped that by 1835 he might clear off his 
debts; he had just paid £15,000 towards that end. 
He received a kind of proposal of marriage from 
a woman of rank, through her brother: he was 
told that he might hope! But he confided to his 
Journal that he did not hope to wed " a grim 
grenadier." His creditors restored to him his 

1 Miss Ferrier published a painful narrative of these occur- 
rences. 



EVIL DAYS 197 

books, plate, furniture, and collection of works 
of art and curios, which he valued at £10,000. 
He resigned his Clerkship in November 1830, re- 
ceiving a pension of £840. The change was un- 
fortunate, as it gave him more time for overwork. 
Meanwhile, every letter from Ballantyne about 
his new novels betrayed its effect in nervous twitch- 
ings at the mouth. Cadell, to give him rest, sug- 
gested the composition of an anecdotic catalogue 
of his curiosities, " The Gabions of Jonathan Old- 
buck." A glance at the opening of the MS., with 
its paralytic writing and examples of agraphia, 
shows how desperate was his mental and bodily 
condition for a short while. 

Yet he was now thinking of Castle Dangerous, 
and he wrote a Tory pamphlet which, his advisers 
saw, showed ignorance of the political situation. 
The pamphlet was dropped, but his advisers had 
a struggle before they carried their point. " Sir 
Walter never recovered it," says Mr. Cadell. I 
have no heart to speak of his political apprehen- 
sions and sufferings. What he feared was the 
overthrow of Society ; what he endured from popu- 
lar insult and even violence is too familiarly known. 
Certain excited and rude artisans had no more 
respect than Wilson for an old friend, the glory 
of the Border. Scott never forgot the scene, it 



i 9 8 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

haunted his dying hours. He acknowledged to a 
distinct stroke of paralysis in April 1831, and 
Cadell and Ballantyne remonstrated against the 
conclusion of Count Robert of Paris. 

How amazing was the humour that supported 
his unconquerable courage! His letters — for ex- 
ample one of October 31, to Lady Louisa Stuart, 
on "Animal Magnetism," show him in full force 
of intellect. He had an attack in November, 
and Laidlaw, his amanuensis for Count Robert of 
Paris, observed unmistakable signs of the end. 
He was bidden to drink water only, and to aban- 
don writing. So he notes, in a parody of Burns : — 

Dour, dour, and eident was he, 

Dour and eident, but and ben, 
Dour against their barley water, 

And eident on the Bramah pen. 1 

In July Scott began Castle Dangerous, and paid 
his last visit to the tombs of the Douglases. The 
country people received him gladly, following him 
in a procession. I must quote what Lockhart 
says about the close of this day, spent beside the 
graves of that stern and haughty race who had 
been, now the savers, now the betrayers, of their 
country. 

1 Eident, of course, means "eager." 







Sir Walter Scott. 

From the painting by Sir Edwin Landseer, R.A. 



AT THE DOUGLAS GRAVES 199 

" It was again a darkish, cloudy day, with some 
occasional mutterings of distant thunder, and per- 
haps the state of the atmosphere told upon Sir 
Walter's nerves ; but I had never before seen him 
so sensitive as he was all the morning after this 
inspection of Douglas. As we drove over the high 
tableland of Lesmahago he repeated I know not 
how many verses from Winton, Barbour, and 
Blind Harry, with, I believe, almost every stanza 
of Dunbar's elegy on the deaths of the Makers 
(poets). It was now that I saw him, such as he 
paints himself in one or two passages of his Diary, 
but such as his companions in the meridian vigour 
of his life never saw him — ' the rushing of a brook, 
or the sighing of the summer breeze, bringing the 
tears into his eyes not unpleasantly.' Bodily weak- 
ness laid the delicacy of the organization bare, 
over which he had prided himself in wearing a 
sort of half-stoical mask. High and exalted feel- 
ings, indeed, he had never been able to keep 
concealed, but he had shrunk from exhibiting 
to human eye the softer and gentler emotions 
which now trembled to the surface. He strove 
against it even now, and presently came back 
from the Lament of the Makers to his Doug- 
lases, and chanted, rather than repeated, in 
a sort of deep and glowing, though not dis- 



aoo SIR WALTER SCOTT 

tinct recitative, his first favourite among all the 
ballads — 

" It was about the Lammas tide, 

When husbandmen do win their hay, 
That the doughty Douglas bownde him to ride 
To England to drive a prey, 

down to the closing stanzas, which again left him 
in tears — 

" My wound is deep — I fain would sleep — 

Take thou the vanguard of the three, 
And hide me beneath the bracken-bush 

That grows on yonder lily lee . . . 
This deed was done at the Otterburne, 

About the dawning of the day. 
Earl Douglas was buried by the bracken-bush, 

And the Percy led captive away." 

The new Whig Government put a ship of war 
at the service of their great antagonist. He was 
to visit Italy, and Cadell kept the type of his two 
last tales set up ; they were revised and altered in 
Scott's absence abroad. One incident in Count 
Robert of Paris, an incident terribly expressive of 
the author's condition, was expunged. Sir Walter 
felt the consolatory delusion that he had succeeded 
in his task, that his debts were paid. The last 
autumn at Abbotsford was full of the charm of 



VOYAGE TO ITALY aoi 

sunset. Turner came, and painted Abbotsford on 
a tea tray, at a picnic. Young Walter Scott came, 
a joy to his father's eyes, " a handsomer fellow 
never put foot into stirrup." Wordsworth, too, 
was there, as his verses on Yarrow testify, and his 
noble sonnet — 

A trouble, not of clouds or weeping rain. 

On the voyage to Italy Scott still was writing, 
the Journal, letters, the tale of // Bizarro, the 
novel of The Knights of Malta ; the manuscript is 
still the old closely serried manuscript, but the 
handwriting is wofully altered. I am informed 
that many passages are full of the old spirit, but 
care has been taken that this work shall never ap- 
pear as a " literary curiosity." 

At Naples Scott heard of Goethe's death. "At 
least he died at home. Let us to Abbotsford! " 
The party, with Mr. Charles Scott, passed on to 
Rome. At Lake Avernus, which, says Lockhart, 
is like a Highland loch, Scott repeated — 

We daurna go a* milking 
For Charlie and his men. 

The classic scene reminded him of his dear hills. 
At Rome, with great difficulty, he visited the tomb 



<2oi SIR WALTER SCOTT 

of James III. (so his epitaph proclaims him,) and 
of Prince Charles and the Cardinal Duke of York; 
the latest minstrel stood by the dust of the last of 
the royal line. The rest " can hardly be told too 
briefly/' says Lockhart. 

In passing through Germany, Scott wrote what 
his son Charles endorses as " The last letter writ- 
ten by my dear father." It is a brief note of 
courtesy to Arthur Schopenhauer, the famous phi- 
losopher, regretting that he was too unwell to re- 
ceive Schopenhauer's visit. The note is clearly 
written and well expressed. It is in the Laing 
MSS. in Edinburgh University Library. Once 
again Scott wrote, or tried to write, in the packet 
boat crossing the Channel. Pen and ink were bor- 
rowed for him from Mrs. Sherwood, the author 
of The Fairchild Family. 

The sufferer reached London on June 13, 1832. 
On July 7 he took ship for Leith. On July 1 1 he 
travelled by carriage to Abbotsford, waking from 
his torpor as they drove down Gala water, past 
Torwoodlee. Arrived, his dogs welcomed him, 
and " he alternately sobbed and smiled over them 
till sleep oppressed him." In his last days he was 
heard to murmur passages from the Bible, the 
Litany, the Scottish metrical psalms, and the 
Stabat Mater Dolorosa. It was on September 17 



THE END 203 

that he bade Lockhart " be a good man, my dear, 
be virtuous, be religious, be a good man." On the 
twenty-first " he breathed his last in the presence 
of all his children. It was a beautiful day — so 
warm that every window was wide open — and so 
perfectly still that the sound of all others most 
delicious to his ear, the gentle ripple of the Tweed 
over its pebbles, was distinctly audible as we knelt 
around the bed, and his eldest son kissed and closed 
his eyes." 

He sleeps, with Lockhart at his feet, where the 
sound of the Border water fills the roofless aisles 
of the abbey of Dryburgh. 

5|S 2|C 2fC 3JC 

" Good-night, Sir Walter!" 

Scott had given his life to pay his debts. Of 
these he actually repaid about £70,000 between 
1826 and 1832. The rest was wiped away by his 
copyrights, through the spirited and judicious 
management of Mr. Cadell, by the exertions of 
Lockhart as editor, and by the profits of Lock- 
hart's Life of Scott. As to the later fortunes of 
Sir Walter's family, but one of his grandchildren 
survived; she married Mr. Hope Scott, the emi- 
nent barrister, and was the mother of the Hon- 
ourable Mrs. Maxwell-Scott, an only child, spes 
exigua et extrema. This lady has evinced the an- 



2o 4 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

cestral love of history in her works, The Tragedy 
of Fotheringhay, in her essays, entitled The Mak- 
ing of Jbbotsford, and in her recent brief book on 
Jeanne d'Arc. One of her sons has done honour 
to the houses of Maxwell and Scott by his distin- 
guished services in the war in South Africa. Thus 
the long descended name of the great cadet of 
Harden has not vanished from the Border. 



CONCLUSION 

The character of Scott, and his place in litera- 
ture, do not demand much discussion after all that 
has already been said. He was born to be at once 
a dweller in the realm of dreams, these dreams 
being mainly " retrocognitive " of the historic 
past; and a man of action and of this world; while 
he had a superabundance of joyous vitality, which 
overflowed into humorous rhyme, even in his worst 
hours of cerebral disease, and which inspired at 
once the central error of his life and the resolute 
sacrifice of life to honour. These elements of 
character were, all of them, carried to a pitch un- 
usually high, while their combination, and their 
union with the most kindly nature, are unprece- 
dented. This vitality, and this unfailing and 
universal sympathy, made friends for Scott of all 
sentient creatures, from men, women and children 
of every rank, to the pig which joined the pack of 
many dogs and one cat, old Hinse, that scoured the 

205 



2o6 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

woods with him, and to the strangely sentimental 
hen which attached itself to Sir Walter. From 
George IV. — who admired and never turned on 
Scott — to the hedgers and ditchers on Abbots ford, 
Scott was endeared to all; in his ruin his old ser- 
vants refused to leave him, and the music master 
of his daughters offered him the entire savings of 
his life. Yet there was no mawkish good nature 
in Scott; when he bent the heavy arches of his 
brows the Ettrick Shepherd himself felt that he 
must " gang warily." No man was served as he 
was by his household, and when he told his son that 
certain conduct would entail his highest displeasure, 
the young man knew the full meaning of the 
phrase. 

Scott's courtesy was spontaneous and universal 
— he spoke to all " as if he was their blood rela- 
tion " — except when he deliberately meant to be 
discourteous, in one case, to Lord Holland, who 
had done no more than his duty. He had come 
athwart the interests of Scott's brother Thomas, 
and Scott took up the feud in the ancient spirit of 
clanship. Yet he lived to pronounce Lord Holland 
" the most agreeable man he ever knew. In criti- 
cism, in poetry, he beats those whose whole study 
they have been." Thus Scott must have expiated 
an error produced by political heat as well as by 



CONCLUSION 207 

personal resentment; probably, like the Baron 
Bradwardine, he sent " Letters of Slains," or other 
atonement. Jeffrey says that " this was the only 
example of rudeness in Scott that he ever witnessed 
in the course of a lifelong familiarity." In this 
lonely case, the person " cut like an old pen " was 
a man of title and distinction. 

It is hardly worth while to controvert the opin- 
ion that Scott was a snob. In addressing persons 
of rank, however familiarly intimate he might be 
with them, he used their " honour-giving names," 
as Agamemnon bids Menelaus do towards the 
princes of the Achaeans. This was the customary 
rule of the period. Byron was indignant when 
Leigh Hunt publicly addressed him as " My dear 
Byron," and Byron was an extreme Liberal, while 
Scott was a Tory. He paid the then recognized 
dues to rank; such dues are no longer welcome to 
their recipients. He lived much with people of the 
highest social position, but he could and did en- 
tertain them at the same table with the Ettrick 
Shepherd, and with guests known to him of old 
when a schoolboy or as a lawyer's apprentice. He 
was observed to pay great deference to a gentle- 
man without any apparent distinction, because he 
descended from a knight who fought by the side 
of Wallace. 



208 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

In all this his conduct, as in everything else, was 
dictated by his reverence for the past. That rev- 
erence for things old, for what had once been, 
ideally at least, an ordered system of society, was 
the cause of Scott's Toryism, increased by his patri- 
otism during the struggle with Bonaparte. The 
ideas and sympathies which made him a Tory, 
made him also an opponent of the system which 
turned the Highlands into sheep farms and deer 
forests, by the expulsion of the clansmen. His 
opinions on this head are expressed in the Intro- 
duction to The Legend of Montrose. Again, the 
feudal ideas at the root of his Toryism made him 
the most attentive of all landlords to the wellbeing 
of every soul on his estates. In bad times he found 
the wisest and most economic way of providing 
them with employment at once honourable and 
remunerative, and he taught the Duke of Buccleuch 
to follow his example on a great scale. He felt 
pain and embarrassment in face of the gratitude of 
his poor cotters for a holiday feast and holiday 
presents: why, he asked himself, should he have 
more than they ? His house was as a great hearth 
whence radiated light and comfort on the humblest 
within his radius. Before Mr. Ruskin he endeav- 
oured to bring the happiness of art into the region 
of the crafts. 



CONCLUSION 209 

" The most of the articles from London were 
only models for the use of two or three neat-handed 
carpenters whom he had discovered in the villages 
near him ; and he watched and directed their opera- 
tions as carefully as a George Bullock could have 
done; and the results were such as even Bullock 
might have admired. The great table in the 
library, for example (a most complex and beau- 
tiful one), was done entirely in the room where it 
now stands, by Joseph Shillinglaw of Darnick — 
the Sheriff planning and studying every turn as 
zealously as ever an old lady pondered the devel- 
opment of an embroidered cushion. The hangings 
and curtains, too, were chiefly the work of a little 
hunchbacked tailor, by name William Goodfellow 
(save at Abbotsford, where he answered to Robin) , 
who occupied a cottage on Scott's farm of the 
Broomielees ; one of the race who creep from home- 
stead to homestead, welcomed wherever they appear 
by housewife and handmaiden, the great gossips 
and newsmen of the parish — in Scottish nomencla- 
ture cardooers. Proudly and earnestly did all these 
vassals toil in his service; and I think it was one of 
them that, when some stranger asked a question 
about his personal demeanour, answered in words 
already quoted ' Sir Walter speaks to every man 
as if they were blood relations.' Not long after 



2io SIR WALTER SCOTT 

he had completed his work at Abbotsford little 
Goodfellow fell sick, and as his cabin was near 
Chiefswood, I had many opportunities of observ- 
ing the Sheriff's kind attention to him in his afflic- 
tion. I can never forget the evening on which the 
poor tailor died. When Scott entered the hovel 
he found everything silent, and inferred from the 
looks of the good women in attendance that their 
patient had fallen asleep, and that they feared his 
sleep was the final one. He murmured some syl- 
lables of kind regret; at the sound of his voice the 
dying tailor unclosed his eyes, and eagerly and wist- 
fully sat up, clasping his hands with an expression 
of rapturous gratefulness and devotion that, in the 
midst of deformity, disease, pain, and wretched- 
ness, was at once beautiful and sublime. He cried 
with a loud voice, ' The Lord bless and reward 
you,' and expired with the effort." 

Of Scott's great charity, which lay in giving af- 
fection as well as material aid, examples have been 
displayed in his latest years. His charity did but 
begin with these gifts; he was brotherly in all hu- 
man intercourse. The slightest notoriety brings 
bores around a man : letter-writing bores, bores who 
want information accessible in any encyclopaedia; 
bores who give voluminous undesired information ; 
bores who ask advice, bores who solicit an inter- 



CONCLUSION 211 

view — countless are the tribes of these thieves of 
time. At the celebrity of Scott they all flew, like 
sea-fowls against a beacon above the midnight sea, 
and he " with a frolic welcome took " their atten- 
tions. They " bestowed all their tediousness on 
him," and he accepted it, suffering them gladly. 
He answered their ceaseless letters (as from a 
boy asking him to contribute to The Giggleswick 
School Magazine!), he replied to them with 
thought, care, and courtesy; he considered their 
worthless manuscripts, paying £10 in postage for 
two MSS. of The Cherokee Lovers: A Tragedy, 
by a young American lady. " I might at least have 
asked him to dinner," he murmured, when a bore 
of the first head had at last taken his leave. This 
is indeed charity which endures all things, making 
itself subject to the needs of all men. 

Sir Walter had everything of the saint except 
(what is indispensable) the psychology of the 
saint. He was naturally good, born to be so. 
" Are all Tories born bad? " said a little boy of 
a Whig family. " They are born bad, and they 
make themselves worse," replied his lady mother. 
Scott was born good, and, by controlling his natural 
tamper, and by reflection, he made himself better. 
But, though sincerely religious and, we know, a 
prayerful man, he was no saint, but a man of this 



ai2 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

world. He was not haunted, as a saint must be, 
by the desire of ideal perfection. It is not certain 
whether he was to be reckoned of the Presbyterian 
or Prelatist form of belief. " Bishops, I care not 
for them," he might have said, like the great Mont- 
rose on his dying day. But he did prefer the Lit- 
urgy of the Church of England to the " conceived 
prayers " of the Scottish pulpit, and read the ser- 
vice on Sundays to his family, when far from a kirk 
at Ashestiel, and to whomsoever of his neighbours 
cared to come and listen. He was married in an 
English church; the burial service of that Church 
was read at his funeral. I am informed that he 
was at one time an Elder of the Kirk at Dudding- 
stone, which is partly of Norman architecture, but 
Lockhart says that, in later life, he adhered to the 
Church of the Cavaliers. Yet he recognized a 
great genius in Dr. Chalmers; there was no bigotry 
in his Episcopal tendencies; as a matter of taste 
he preferred the Anglican manner of conducting 
public worship. He was on the best terms with 
many ministers ; the only profession of whose fol- 
lowers he speaks with a certain lack of sympathy 
was the profession of school-mastering. In every 
dominie he believed that there lay " a vein of ab- 
surdity," and on one occasion he reproves himself 
for thinking that he had met an exception to the 



CONCLUSION 213 

rule. One of his own schoolmasters once knocked 
him down, in boyhood, and apologized by say- 
ing (as if he had driven into the party in front 
of him at golf) , that he " did not know he 
could hit so hard." This apology seldom mends 
matters ! 

We all have our foibles. That of Scott was the 
effort to live in an idealized past. He knew the 
points at which his reason crossed his judgment. 
The fairest of historians, he would not write a 
biography of Queen Mary " because his opinion 
was contrary to his feeling." " She may have been 
criminal," he says, in The Tales of a Grandfather, 
telling the story as fairly as may be, within his 
space. Lockhart observes that he often speaks of 
George IV (he must mean George III) as " de 
jure King," on the death of the Cardinal Duke of 
York. " Yet who could have known better than 
he that whatever rights the exiled males of the 
Stuart line ever possessed must have remained en- 
tire with their female descendants?" Had Scott 
lived in his father's time, I misdoubt that he would 
have worn the black cockade, not the white, for, 
except in his expenditure, he always had a saving 
grain of commonsense. Scott was a great and 
strong man as any of his knights, but the nature 
which gave him strength made him a poet who 



214 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

" lived in fantasy." He tried to make his dreams 
real, and he forgot realities. Any ideal set before 
him gave him pleasure; he certainly and confess- 
edly took a stern delight in the ideal of working 
off his debts with his own hand. His earlier years 
of grinding task work were not, as such, unhappy. 
Sir Walter had, in fact, the most fortunate kind of 
genius — a genius for happiness, which cannot exist 
without making life more joyous for all within the 
radius of its influence. 

The Scots are, according to old proverbs, a jeal- 
ous people. The race has no two sons more oppo- 
site in their ideals than Walter Scott and John 
Knox. Yet they had this virtue in common, that 
neither in the preacher nor the poet does analysis 
detect a grain of professional jealousy. Scott 
could, indeed, see the blemishes on the poetry of 
Southey ; nor could the faults of Byron escape him. 
But in other contemporary poets whom he men- 
tions, he seems to behold nothing but their excel- 
lences, which he often exaggerates. If Byron 
" beat him," as he said, he seems seriously to have 
believed that the triumph was deserved. This is, 
surely, unexampled generosity. 

" Scott's chivalrous imagination threw a certain 
air of courteous gallantry into his relations with his 
daughters. . . . Though there could not be a gen- 



CONCLUSION 215 

tier mother than Lady Scott, ... on those deli- 
cate occasions most interesting to young ladies, they 
always made their father the first confidant." In 
his works of imagination, the relation of father and 
daughter is always touched with peculiar grace and 
tenderness. His dressing-room was " a little chapel 
of the Lares " fitted up with relics of his father 
and mother. In every relation of life and litera- 
ture his motto was " a leal souvenir " ; he kept the 
pious trust of all things old that were of good 
report, and handed on the sacred bequest to all 
who follow him. As to his place in literature, 
we leave it to the judgment of the world and of 
the unborn. They " cannot say but he has had 
the crown." 

Tides of criticism come and go ; they may leave 
the fame and name of Walter Scott deserted, like 
the cairn of a forgotten warrior forsaken by a re- 
ceding sea, or they may fill the space with the 
diapason of their waves. We cannot prophesy. 
But one sound will not cease, if men dead re- 
member, the carol of the lark that sang above 
Scott's grave at the funeral of the dearest of 
his daughters. That song of praise for such hap- 
piness as — 

sceptred king not laurelled conqueror 



2i 6 SIR WALTER SCOTT 

can give, has followed " this wondrous potentate " 
from three generations who have warmed their 
hands at the hearth of his genius, who have drunk 
of his enchanted cup, and eaten of his fairy bread, 
and been happy through his gift. 



APK 9 WW